American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Washington, Snoqualmie Pass—The Tooth

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

Washington, Snoqualmie Pass—The Tooth—On Sunday, June 16, with fine weather, a group of four climbers made a successful ascent of the east face of The Tooth. They were descending from the east notch on easy third-class scrambling, and moved onto a snow tongue, about six to ten feet wide and humped slightly in the middle. The party was not roped. Mary Kay Pottinger (24) walked down first, followed by Frank Tarver (21) ; the other two members of the party, Nancy Bickford (24) and Wes Wilcox (32) were some distance behind in order to minimize the danger from falling rock. The snow was soft, and progress was made by kicking in heels. As Tarver stepped down, the snow gave way under his foot and he began to slide slowly. He felt he could glissade to a stop without taking self-arrest position, but the uneven surface of the snow put him off balance. He fell and before he could dig his axe into a self-arrest, he slipped into the moat between the rock and snow, landing on his back and right leg, fracturing the latter. The moat was about 10 feet deep, with a rock bottom, but opened out lower down, so the others were able to reach him immediately. The accident occurred about 3:00 P.M. The others supplied him with plenty of warm clothing and splinted the leg with ice axes, with the girls holding the leg in manual traction. Wes Wilcox hiked the three miles to the road and phoned for help. Tarver was evacuated by Navy helicopter under the co-ordination of the State Patrol at about 8:30 P.M. and flown directly to Seattle.

Source: Frank Tarver and Wes Wilcox. Report by George H. Bloom.

Analysis: Tarver feels an immediate self-arrest position would have halted his slide before he went into the moat. Because the snow was soft, however, he thought he could stop without it. This was the first time Tarver had been on snow in 3 years. Tarver felt that perhaps they were too carefree after accomplishing a difficult rock climb.

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