Washington, Northern Cascades, Red Face Mountain

Publication Year: 1961.

Washintgon, Northen Cascades, Red Face Mountain—On August 29, 25 persons, members of the Whatcom Pass Outing sponsored by the Sierra Club, were climbing Red Face Mountain. Some of the group were experienced climbers, others were not, but all were experienced hikers and campers. The group was led by Phillip Berry and Robin Linnett, both experienced leaders and climbers.

Red Face Mountain (7500 feet) via East Ridge (Route 1) from Whatcom Pass (5282 feet), the camp site, is considered second class climbing, with a 100 foot traverse of third class. All the climbing was on loose rock. A rope was carried and offered by the leaders but was not needed.

On reaching the third class traverse, Berry reconnoitered the route to the summit, a short distance above, then returned to the party and proceeded with 12 persons who expressed an interest in going on to the summit. Leader Linnett remained in charge of the group that stayed behind. On crossing the traverse with the first group, Berry called back to Linnett not to proceed until the route above was clear of his group but the message was not understood because of the distance. When Berry’s party attained the ridge, one of the group dislodged a small rock (baseball size) which dislodged larger rocks. At that moment four or five persons were traversing below, including Mrs. Owen, who was struck on the back of the head by a 15 pound rock and was killed instantly.

Source: Will Siri.

Analysis: It should be recorded that the leaders, during the course of the climb, took every possible precaution to insure the safety of the group. They were properly equipped, they repeatedly cautioned against dislodging rocks, and in general, conducted an exemplary climb by most standards. A dislodged rock is probably one of the objective hazards of climbing with a large group of people, some of whom are inexperienced. As in many such cases, this accident seems to have resulted from a sequence of highly improbable events that occurred in spite of the conscientious precautions taken by the leaders. This is another instance when a hard hat might have saved a life.