American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Hallet Peak, Tyndall Glacier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Colorado, Hallet Peak, Tyndall Glacier—On August 21, Philip Gillette (31) and his wife (31) climbed Hallet Peak via Chaos Canyon. They descended the edge of Tyndall Glacier and were making slow progress due to loose rock and fatigue of Mrs. Gillette. It was becoming dark and they had just decided to climb back to the top of the glacier and return by an easier route when Mrs. Gillette slipped onto the glacier’s slope, starting an unchecked slide to the bottom where she was killed by impact with rocks. This was at 8:00 p.m. Unable to reach her by continuing down the glacier, Gillette climbed back to the top, returned to their starting point (Bear Lake) by the horse trail then down to Flattop Mountain, and reported the accident to the Park Service at around 10:00 p.m. A rescue party was on its way by 11:00 or 11:30. They felt it was not feasible to go up to the glacier directly in the dark, so they had to go around by the Flattop Trail, then down to the glacier where they found Mrs. Gillette at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. She had been killed instantly (broken neck and head cuts).

Source: Philip Gillette.

Analysis (Gillette): In retrospect, I can see that the accident was due to poor judgement on my part, overestimating what my wife could do and underestimating the difficulty of the terrain. I had, however, checked with the Park Service as to the feasibility of our trip, and had been informed it was a non-technical climb, requiring care but no special equipment. I found out later we had come down the wrong side of the glacier (the Hallett side), the other side next to Flattop being considered easier.

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