American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Denny Creek Trail

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

Washington, Denny Creek Trail—Eugene Todd (26), an experienced climber and member of both the Mazamas of Oregon and The Mountaineers of Washington, lost his life in an accident on Sept. 15.

Todd and two other Mountaineers, Earl Doan and Tina Hess, were returning down the Denny Creek Trail from an ascent of the West Face of The Tooth. The party had been delayed, none of the three carried lights and it was foggy and dark when the accident occurred about 8:30 P.M.

Enroute down the trail, the Todd party had met Stuart Ferguson, Donna Lotz and Stewart Redfern, members of another party that had climbed Mt. Roosevelt. All three of the Roosevelt climbers carried lights and, for awhile, tried to guide Todd’s party. However, after a rest stop, Todd took the lead, a few steps ahead of Ferguson. Without a light, Todd wandered off the trail following what he thought was a switch back. He took about three steps, then slipped over a sheer precipice.

The accident took place 2¼. miles from the Denny Creek Trail parking lot. After surveying the situation and making sure help would be required for the rescue, other members of the party agreed that Donna Lotz should hike out to give the alarm. After her departure, other members of the party tied two climbing ropes together and added enough ¼ inch sling rope, doubled for extra strength, to give them about 270 feet of rope. Ferguson volunteered to be lowered down the cliff at the end of this rope, trying to find the missing man by flashing his light along the rocks.

At the end of the rope, the cliff leveled out enough for Ferguson to unrope and descend another 20 feet to where Todd lay unconscious. Ferguson tried to ease Todd’s position and stop the flow of blood from many wounds. Ferguson gave Todd as much relief as he could from his first aid kit, then covered him with his sleeping bag.

After making Todd as comfortable as possible, Ferguson climbed and was hauled back up the cliff. There the party agreed that Ferguson and Redfern should hike out to let the rescuers know that blood was needed. Doan and Hess remained at the scene.

Mountain Rescue Council Members arrived at 4:30 A.M. and shortly after dawn found a route down to where Todd lay. However, he had suffered a fractured skull and broken neck and was found dead when they reached him.

Source: Mountaineer 50: 6, Oct. 1957; Summit, Nov. 1957, p.11.

Analysis: This accident to a man who had been climbing for years emphasizes the need for constant vigilance by even the most experienced out- doorsmen when traveling at night or when visibility is poor. It also emphasizes the importance of carrying the 10* essentials on all trips. They are prescribed for unexpected emergencies as well as expected demands. A flashlight could have saved Todd’s life.

The members of the Roosevelt party are to be complimented on their assistance to the distressed Todd party. Special commendation should go to the 18 year old Ferguson for descending almost 300 feet down the steep cliff in the dark in an effort to rescue the injured man.

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