American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. San Antonio

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

California, San Gabriel Mountains (2), Mt. San Antonio—David Connors (20), Daniel Ramsey (19), and Rose Marie Kennedy (18) of Pomona, California and Donna Mesell (18) of West Covina, California, left the Stockton Flats campground in the San Gabriel Mountains about mid-day on November 20, to climb Mt. San Antonio (10,800). They planned to follow the north slope of Mt. San Antonio to Baldy Notch, then up the east ridge to the summit. The weather was clear and warm and climbing conditions were excellent for the season of the year. One week previously, however, a moderate snowfall had blanketed the mountain above the 8,000 foot level. Subsequent warm days and cold nights had created an icy crust on the snow that was particularly apparent on the northern slopes, the route followed by the party.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. during the ascent the group crossed an icy slope at the 8,000 foot level, Connors slipped and plunged approximately 1,200 feet into the bottom of Coldwater Canyon. Inasmuch as the slope was slightly convex the party could not see Connors’ fate. When no sound was heard from Connors following the fall, Ramsey climbed a short distance down the slope in an effort to see Connors and if need be, go to his aid. Ramsey also slipped and fell into Coldwater Canyon.

When the men did not answer their calls, Miss Kennedy hiked to the ski lift terminal at Baldy Notch and notified the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. Miss Mesell remained at the site of the accident.

The Ontario substation of the Sheriff’s office notified San Bernardino County Mountain Rescue of the situation at 5:45 p.m., and a team of twelve men was dispatched immediately to the scene. At 10:45 p.m. the rescue team advised that they had located the bodies of Connors and Ramsey. Death had apparently been instantaneous as both had impacted at great speed into jagged rocks on the canyon floor. The cause of death was tentatively established as severe head and back injuries. The team worked the remainder of the night recovering the bodies by standard mountaineering procedures and radioed that all was secure at 8:00 a.m.

It is very obvious that the party was inadequately equipped for travel over snow and ice. Proper footgear was not worn and a rope was not carried. Furthermore, they had no previous experience under such conditions, and used very poor judgment in attempting such a route. The party carried none of the ten essentials, and even had death not been an immediate result, it is doubtful that they could have survived the night in the depths of Coldwater Canyon.

Source: Robert C. Gardner, Altadena Mountain Rescue Squad.

Analysis: Inadequately equipped and inexperienced climbers slipped on icy snow and fell in an uncontrolled glissade approximately 1,200 feet into a steep canyon. Victims impacted at great speed into rocks at the bottom of the canyon and were killed instantly.

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