American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baldy

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

California, San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baldy. Early in the morning of December 14, James Northrup (19) and two male companions attempted to climb Mt. Baldy. Inasmuch as the lift was not yet in operation, the group decided to hike up the lift line to the upper terminal, where the trail (covered with snow at this time of year) left for the summit. The men were warmly dressed except for inadequate footgear. They carried neither ice axe nor rope and were apparently unaware of the icy conditions that prevailed from the 7500-ft. level to the summit. The day was ideal for climbing. Near the top of the ski lift the slope steepens abruptly and most climbers depart from the lift line and follower lesser slopes to the upper terminal. Northrup and party, however, chose to climb directly up to the trail junction on the ridge. Near the top of this route, at about 7800 ft. Northrup slipped on steep frozen snow and plunged down a narrow chute. His fall was arrested by rocks and vegetation in the chute; but by the time he came to a stop he had fallen some 300 ft. Northrup’s friends were terrified at the situation. They made their way to him but inasmuch as neither was versed in first aid all they could do was to make him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Then both left the scene and notified the local forest ranger. A San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department rescue group reached Northrup’s inert form 2 hours later and evacuated him to a nearby hospital where he was determined to have fractured legs, ribs, and back. He remained hospitalized for some time.

Source: Robert Gardner, Altadena Mountain Rescue Squad.

Analysis: It is obvious that the group used the poorest judgment possible under the circumstances and in general behaved in an irresponsible manner.

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