American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Mt. Baker

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1970

Washington, Mt. Baker. On 25 May John Dallmeyer (27), Mario Strim (30), Margaret Secrett (28), and Judy Small (26), had been siding on Mt. Baker and decided to climb to the summit. The party was last seen on the summit of Mt. Baker in a rising storm. They had ascended in ski boots and using ski poles. They were roped together and apparently fell during the descent. They slid about 75-100 feet and then over a 20-25 foot drop. Dallmeyer was probably killed in this fall by landing on his back. Judy was injured and placed in a bare snow-hole that the other two must have dug out with their hands. Judging by the thickness of the ice on the walls, she probably survived that night. The bodies of the other two were found together near by. It appeared that Margaret collapsed trying to get out of the cirque and Mario either stayed with her to protect her from the wind or collapsed trying to revive her.

Source: R. Culbert, Hal Foss.

Analysis: The rescue party was working under very poor conditions, and it is difficult to piece together a complete story. Only one pack was examined and it was found to contain wine and beer and no jacket. The bodies were dressed in sweaters and anaracks or wind shells, but no really warm jackets.

All were competent skiers, but only John appears to have had much experience at mountaineering. The route they were doing was not difficult and under normal conditions it is not uncommon for spring ski tour parties to go up with ski boots and ski poles; nor was the route above their experience. The weather, however, was by no means normal on that day, and was obviously deteriorating. It was their failure to turn back when they met conditions for which they were neither clothed nor equipped which proved the primary mistake.

The party likely suffered from panic and shock after the accident. Digging a snow-cave for Judy Small, bleak and uninsulated though it was, must be considered a tribute to Margaret and Mario who were apparently at the very limit of their endurance.

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