American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Oregon, St. Peter's Dome

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

Oregon, St. Peter’s Dome—On Sept. 15, Don McKay (36) and Joe Quigley (32) were making an attempt to climb St. Peter’s Dome by a new route. Both were extremely experienced climbers. From the saddle of the south side of the Dome they traversed around the east side and on to the sheer north face. They climbed up about 50 feet to a comfortable ledge (pitons were used for safety). From the ledge Quigley using pitons and stirrups led for about 25 feet. At this point for some reason it was decided to change leaders. Quigley was lowered to the ledge. McKay then took the lead and climbed to the top while being belayed. McKay was standing with his left foot in a stirrup and his right foot on a rock and was belayed through a piton, that was about level with and about 18 inches left of his waist when the fall occurred. As he fell he pulled the belayer off and both men fell to their death landing on a ledge about 175 feet below.

The fall was witnessed by three friends (F. Fossold, R. Petru and D. Hitchcock) watching from the highway below with a 40X telesecope and 6X binoculars. Petru and Hitchcock reached the bodies within one hour. The evacuation required 35 more members five hours to complete.

Source: D. G. Hitchcock.

Analysis: (Hitchcock). It is not known whether the piton just pulled out or whether McKay slipped and his 18 inch pendulum swing dislodged the piton. The belayer was not anchored to a piton and therefore was totally unprepared for a complete upper piton failure. At the time of the fall the belay rope ran through only two of the pitons. The top piton may have been loosened when Quigley was lowered to the ledge. A later examination of the top piton showed it had at one time been tight, however, the rock in the Columbia River gorge tends to be unstable and cracks and loosens easily.

The American Alpine Club Safety Committee

Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr

Weston, Massachusetts, Chairman

John S. Humphreys

Cambridge, Massachusetts

William L. Putnam

Springfield, Massachusetts

Francis L. Cary

New York, New York

Hans Kraus

New York, New York

Arnold Wexler

Washington, D. C.

Guy M. Everett

Chicago, Illinois

Henry A. Waldrop

Camp Carson, Colorado

Harold F. Walton

Boulder, Colorado

Victor Josendal

Seattle, Washington

Russell Me Jury

Portland, Oregon

William Siri

Berkeley, California

David Harrah

Riverside, California

James Bonner

Pasadena, California

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