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California, San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baden-Powell

California, San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baden-Powell. On February 19, Charles Brubaker (20), William Glass (20), Roy O’Brien (19), and Larry Sheets (17), set out to climb Mt. Baden-Powell (9399 ft.) The party planned to follow the summer trail. In winter the steep couloirs crossed by the trail are filled with ice. The party was equipped with one ice axe and one 120-ft. climbing rope, as they expected icy conditions.

At approximately 1:45 p.m. the party had reached the 7700 foot level on the mountain and had discovered that the ice conditions were more severe than they had expected or had the ability to cope with. Considering that they were not likely to reach the summit, the group turned back at this point. Slightly below the highest point reached by the party the route crossed a particularly steep and icy couloir. Brubaker attempted to cross it without roping up and slipped immediately. He fell approximately 1700 ft. in an uncontrolled slide and was killed instantly when he struck the rocks at the bottom of the couloir.

The remainder of the party continued the descent with considerable haste, taking one hour and a half to reach the cars and additional time to reach the nearest ranger station. Rescue personnel reached the body late in the evening and completed the evacuation before midnight using standard mountaineering techniques.

Considering the season, climbing conditions at the time of the accident were excellent; the weather was pleasantly cool with a slight north wind blowing.

Source: Robert C. Gardner, Altadena Mountain Rescue Squad, Altadena Sheriff’s Station, Altadena.

Analysis: It is evident that Brubaker used poor judgment in not roping up. The party was inadequately equipped for such a climb at this season; each member should have had an ice axe and crampons. This is another instance where an easy summer route becomes much more difficult under winter conditions.