American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Mt. Rainier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1969

Washington, Mt. Rainier National Park. On 17 February Mr. Charles H. Anderson led a group from Paradise to the Paradise Ice Caves. The party consisted of him, his wife Edith (22), Dave Mischke, and Bob Brown. Brown, however, turned back shortly after leaving Paradise because he had forgotten his ice axe. The remainder of the group continued on. Brown later reported that when he turned back, Mrs. Anderson was apparently having difficulty getting her footing and keeping up with her husband and Mischke and it was snowing. They later reached the caves and spent about an hour inside. On their return, the weather deteriorated severely and at Mazama Bidge they constructed a small snowcave. They were lost in white-out conditions at this time and Mrs. Anderson was too weak to continue.

About 5:00 p.m. the other member of the original party, Bob Brown, alerted rangers at the Paradise Banger Station that the party was overdue.

Bangers Erskine, Pinnix, and Haertel began immediately to make preparations for a search operation. They made a hasty search of the Golden Gate Bidge (the trail to the Ice Caves) to no avail.

The weather conditions were very poor with 30-40 mph winds, freezing rain and snow and low visibility (50 feet). The minimum temperature during the night as recorded at Paradise was 31°F., with 30 mph wind velocity, the chill factor would be -38 °F.

At 2:00 a.m. Rangers Erskine and Haertel with six Mountain Rescue Council men again returned to Golden Gate to continue the search, but were again turned back by severe weather conditions.

At 6:30 a.m. a team of MRC personnel was dispatched to the ice caves under the direction of Ranger Pinnix. Approximately an hour later a second team of MBC personnel was dispatched under Banger Miller to follow team number one for support purposes. They were advised to follow the exact route because of serious avalanche danger.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., February 18, Mischke walked out to Paradise. He had difficulty finding the way even though the storm had subsided considerably. From his description of the location of the Snowcave site, teams were sent to the vicinity and the cave was located. The cave did not offer very good protection. It was only about two feet square and six feet deep.

Mrs. Anderson was very near death at the time she was found. She had stopped breathing and there was no apparent pulse nor any pupillary reaction. She was given first aid treatment by MBC personnel to no avail. Charles Anderson was apparently all right.

Source: Paul F. Haertel and Clyde Lockwood, Mt. Rainier National Park.

Analysis: Accident could have been avoided by party leader’s consideration of weather and time factors. It would have been better to remain at the Paradise Ice Caves for the night or to have turned back before reaching the caves.

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