American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, St. Mary's Glacier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Colorado, St. Mary’s Glacier. On 6 September Bill Weiss (16), James McCoy (17), and Craig Nichols (17) started a care-free day of glissading and climbing. The party roped in and began practicing ice-ax arrests and glissading.

At 11:30 a.m. the bottom man on the rope fell swiftly, yelling “falling.” McCoy, the second man up the rope was jerked out of his arrest position by the sudden jerk and began a fast descent. Then Nichols, the lead man, was also jerked out of his arrest by such force that he was airborne on the steep slope for several feet. Stunned by the shock, he was unable to get into arrest and hurled past both McCoy and Weiss at an increasing speed.

His fall was stopped when he slammed into the rocks about 70 feet below Weiss. He was conscious but complained of pain in his right ankle. He was carried down by some skiers close to the scene. He was then driven to Colorado General Hospital in Denver where his broken right ankle was put in a walking cast for 6 weeks.

Source: Bill Weiss.

Analysis: The climbers were careless in choosing a route where no runout existed. A little more caution could have prevented an unluckily broken ankle and a possible fatal accident. None of the climbers was wearing headgear.

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