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Washington, Mt. Johannesberg

Washington, Mt. Johannesberg—On August 30, Don Grimlund (24) and five companions, all experienced climbers, had reached the summit of Mt. Johannesberg. The approach had been from Cascade Pass by a circuit around Mixup via Gunsight Pass and a contour along the south side of east ridge of Johannesberg. Base camp was near the mountain, behind the Triplets.

The climb was not technically difficult, but loose rock was a hazard most of the way. Ropes were carried rather than worn because the dragging ropes would have increased the risk of rockfall. The climbers took due precautions, traveling bunched together and avoiding one another’s fall lines. The route required care because of debris on ledges, unstable talus slopes and loose rock along the crest of the east ridge. The party had reached the summit without difficulty. Climbing down they traveled in pairs, widely separated for safety. Nearing the end of the descent, however, a rock dropped from the ridge and triggered a verylarge rock avalanche which quickly fanned out over the slope below. Don and Dick Grimlund were on a face below the avalanching slope, partially protected by a small gully and out of sight of the avalanche.

The size and force of the rockfall carried many rocks over the gully and down the face. A large rock struck Don squarely on his hard hat, fatally injuring him and knocking him to a snow slope below.

Source: The Mountaineer—November 1959, page 4.

Analysis: Many climbs, if they are to be made at all, must be made over unstable terrain. The climbers had taken sound, logical precautions to prevent just such an accident; precautions that are usually effective. However, the size of the rock avalanche, the route and distance that a large number of the rocks traveled and the size of rock that struck the climber all combined to produce this unpredictable accident.