American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Mount Rainier National Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1964

Washington, Mount Rainier National Park. On 16 June Ted Miles was leading a guided summit party down after a successful climb of Mt. Rainier (14,410). While crossing a steep (60 degree) snowbridge at the 12,000 foot level, Miles fell 40 feet into the crevasse when the bridge collapsed.

The party stopped the fall with difficulty in soft snow on a moderate slope. Miles got into his prussik slings and ascended several feet to a small ledge. Lead Guide Staley and the remainder of the party held him in self arrest position while a nearby climbing party arrived to give assistance. Because of the extremely soft deep snow the entire guided party stayed in self arrests, unable to tie off on axes.

Within thirty minutes a party of two, Dan Davis and John Holland who had climbed by another route arrived and set up a pulley. Miles was pulled to the top within 1½ hours cold and shaken but unhurt. Miles was able to continue the descent unassisted to the Paradise Ranger Station.

Source: Jack C. Melill (Park Ranger).

Analysis: With the deep new soft snow and warm conditions Miles probably should have asked for a belay. However, good technique by Staley and the party prevented a more serious fall under poor self arresting conditions. It points up, on all snow and ice climbs, the most dangerous time is on the descent when temperatures rise and bridges soften.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.