American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Castle Rock

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

Washington, Castle Rock—On 8 Dec. Leonard Miller (33) and Dick Wahl- strom (24) had completed a good fifth class climb up the face of Castle Rock. Conditions were bad due to ice and snow on the rock, but both were eager climbers and of moderate experience and had protected themselves well with pitons during climb. They returned to the start of the climb which is a big ledge about half-way up the 7,800 foot face of the rock. It is reached by walking onto it from the slope out of which the rock protrudes. They left all climbing gear and set out for the car to pick up lunches and return. In leaving the ledge Wahlstrom took a short cut to reach the overgrown scree slope which slants down to the highway. He found himself half-way down a snow covered slab before appreciating his danger, and as he turned to retreat, he started slipping. The slab is a recognized alternative route which Wahlstrom had used casually only a month earlier, but the coating of snow slid him over the edge. He fell 15-20 feet through bushes before stopping. Miller applied minor first aid and evacuated him to their car and then to the nearest hospital where he remained three days under suspicion of concussion. It had been five hours before he had regained adequate clarity of mind.

Source: Miller and Wahlstrom from Willi Unsoeld.

Analysis: Failure to estimate correctly the effects of snow cover on normally easy rock, and possible let down in awareness of margin of safety as a result of successful completion of the difficult and exhilarating portion of the climb.

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