American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Washington, Olympics—The Brothers

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1958

Washington, Olympics—The Brothers—On May 26, fifty-three persons on an Olympic College Basic Mountaineering Class climb reached the summit of The Brothers. The very warm sun penetrated through a light fog. Someone had climbed the mountain a week before and had glissaded down, which had left a rather hard deep path in the middle of the snow chute.

Climbing parties normally glissade this snow chute without difficulty when there is more snow. However, this year the snow was very light; it had begun to melt and rocks were showing in places. On the way up the snow was firm and excellent for cimbing, but during the two hours the party was above, it softened a great deal and all that was loosened tended to slide down the chute.

Rope teams coming down had a choice of whether to glissade or to heel down. Some of them heeled down, but a number decided to glissade. The first two or three had little difficulty, but more soft snow kept filling the glissading tracks. Because of the fog it was not possible for those above to see or to get information that the condition was bad or that there was trouble in the chute. During the descent there were three rope teams which went out of control. One rope team went the farthest down in a rather heavy soft snow slide, but were able to stop just before they hit the rocks further down the mountain. Another rope team hit the outcropping of rocks and sustained bruises and scratches, but nothing serious. The third rope team, which included Mrs. Jack Turpin (27), went out of control when part way down, but had been able to stop themselves when another rope team came down and hit them. It took her team on down and both teams stopped just short of the rocks. There were a few low protruding rocks they may have hit on the way down. Mrs. Turpin sustained a cracked pelvic bone, due either to being hit by the other climbers in the chute or due to hitting one of the rock outcroppings later.

With assistance, Mrs. Turpin was able to walk down the mountain side, although she couldn’t put any weight on her left leg. A bivouac was made two miles from base camp. The following morning she was carried to the road in a stretcher, which required six hours.

Source: George Martin.

Analysis: This demonstrates the need for continued training and practice of glissading and self arrest technique.

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