Washington, Olympics—Mt. Constance—On June 30, Robert T. Ives (27) and five other climbers were sitting on a ledge 10 feet directly below the summit of Mt. Constance waiting for climbers ahead of them while eating lunch. Visibility was poor with light snow falling. There were 21 climbers on this Mountaineer Experience climb. On the summit a member of the party, following the route down used by 15 climbers before him, dislodged a small rock that was holding a number of larger rocks. This climber yelled “ROCK”, and held several from falling down. But one rock perhaps 9 inches in diameter, fell directly down and hit Ives on the head making a dent in his hard hat and knocking it off. Another large rock hit his right hand and broke his thumb. The severity of the rockfall is indicated by the fact that a climbing rope was completely severed. Bleeding was stopped and the fractured thumb splinted. Ives was checked for possible head and back injuries. Due to his back injury (fractured spinous process of vertebra) he was unable to pull with his arms. He complained of backache, but he was able to climb down the mountain with a belay. Ives was the only climber in the party wearing a hard hat.
Source: Mountaineer climb report by Phillip Bartow; interview with Bartow by V. Josendal.
Analysis: This accident might have been avoided by more care on the part of the climber who started the rockfall while crossing the loose rock on the summit. Also the six climbers directly below the summit should have found a safer place to sit down. The rockfall occurred, however, and Ives’ life was probably saved by his hard hat.