Washington, Mt. Stuart. On 15 June Douglas Merrill (26) and Robert Stull (26) began their climb at 7:00 a.m. from their camp at Ingalls Creek. The route is Becky’s route 1. The climb included a long easy couloir which opened up into a snowfield below the false summit. “We crossed the snowfield to the east and climbed a rock rib to the false summit. We then crossed the ridge from the false summit to the snow below the main summit. Crampons were installed at this point since the snow was crusty on the surface. Stull led making large foot holes to the summit. The summit was reached at noon and 2 hours were spent relaxing there in the warm sun. During this time we were joined by a second party of climbers. At 2:00 p.m. everyone on the summit began to descend.
The snow had softened a bit, but it was still slightly crusty and everyone was wearing crampons. At this point, Merrill appeared somewhat nervous about descending. He leaned back toward the slope placing his full weight on the back edge of the heel of his boot. He also failed to hold his ice axe properly. Although these things were mentioned several times, he failed to improve his style and descending to the rock ridge leading to the false summit was very slow. The snow below the false summit was still crusty but the snowfield should have been a very easy route down from this point. As we walked across the snow immediately below the false summit, Merrill slipped and failed to do a self arrest. He slid approximately 50 feet on the snow while making an incorrect effort to do a self arrest. He then gave up the self arrest and turned to see where he was going. At this time his body rotated and he hit a rock with his ribs. He rotated further after hitting the first rock and then hit a second rock only ten feet away with his head. He continued sliding on the snow for another 1500 feet. Keith Hopkins, a climber from another party, reached him immediately and began first aid. Doug was conscious when I reached him and we were able to move him to a dry rock and put a down parka on him before I left for help. Merrill succumbed from his injuries prior to evacuation.”
Source: Robert J. Stull.
Analysis: (Stull) Both members of the party were in good physical condition and high spirits before the accident occurred. It is believed that the accident is essentially due to inexperience and improper use of the equipment (ice axe and crampons).