American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, San Gabriel Mountains, Thunder Mountain

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

California, San Gabriel Mountains (3),Thunder Mountain—On November 24, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Geza Bene (34), accompanied by his wife and daughter and friends boarded the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift for Baldy Notch. The party totalled seven persons. The group planned to spend the day in the vicinity of the wanning hut and restaurant at the notch and have their Thanksgiving dinner there. After their meal the party started to hike toward Thunder Mountain a short distance to the south. The group was in no way prepared for hiking inasmuch as they had inadequate footgear for the icy snow conditions present and were poorly clothed for anything but a casual outing. Apparently the closer they got to Thunder Mountain, the more interested in climbing it they became. They entered a closed area, established by the Forest Service, to keep casual hikers off precipitous slopes and ridges that were covered with icy snow. Once into the restricted area, the party, with Bene in the lead, proceeded to the steepest section of one of the ridges. Without warning Bene slipped and fell approximately 800 feet down a steep snow slope. His body hit numerous rocks and trees on the way down and he was no doubt killed instantly. The accident happened at approximately 3:00 p.m. As soon as the remainder of the party could return to the Notch, San Bernardino County Mountain Rescue was called and the body was removed some five hours later using standard mountaineering techniques.

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

Analysis: The party was neither equipped nor experienced for such an area. This was not a planned climb, but a spur of the moment decision that showed very poor judgment by all members of the party.

(On December 18, a party of four persons apparently out of curiosity decided to walk to the scene of this accident, where a member of the party repeated the previous accident and fell to his death. They had ignored signs warning about the dangers in this area.—ed.)

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