American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Snoqualmie Pass, Guye Peak

  • In Memoriam
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

Washington, Snoqualmie Pass, Guye Peak. About 0800 on 25 March Shawn Taylor (21) and A1 Boullion (19) led their party for the summit of Guye Peak via a small gully on the southeast side. There were 20 people in all, about one-half of which had had some climbing experience.

The party worked its way up to the base of Guye through Sahalee. Both leaders of the group looked the route over and thought “it appeared to be an interesting route and we thought it would go.” The party worked its way up through the gully without much trouble. The gully was very steep and full of ice, snow, and rocks. The snow was frozen and from time to time they had to cut steps. According to Taylor the group had no problems at all. Boullion and Taylor took turns leading then belaying members up to their point.

At about 1330 Boullion reached the highest point of the climb. (Approximately 4,600 feet). He tied himself into a tree (approximately 8 inches in diameter) and started belaying people up to his point.

After about four persons were up to Boullion’s position the spot started to get crowded. Boullion told the group that he would make room for some of the people to his left (looking down) across a narrow ridge about 10 feet away. There was another small level spot with another 8- to 10-inch tree, a good spot to put some of the other people.

Boullion then unroped and made his way across the narrow ridge toward the next level spot. This spot was just 10 feet away but the ridge was of ice and snow and he had to cut steps to get across. To cut the steps Boullion had an ice-axe but no one was sure if he had the wrist strap on or not.

Boullion made it to the next small platform and was on his way back when he slipped and fell.

Rachelle Meenach, age 23, was on the first platform and she stated “I saw A1 cut steps over and when he came back he slipped and fell. He fell about 10 feet on rock then hit the snow and ice. I think he tried to arrest himself but he lost his ice-axe then there was no way he could stop himself”.

As Boullion fell he zipped past several members of the party so close that he actually hit them. One boy said he tried to grab him but “A1 was going too fast”.

Boullion traveled down about 20 feet where he hit an ice-axe so hard he broke the handle. He then traveled down the very steep gully until he finally stopped near a rock outcrop at the 4,000-foot elevation.

Shawn Taylor, co-leader of the group, said as Boullion passed him Boullion didn't seem to be trying to stop himself. (Taylor was not more than 30 feet below). Taylor stated “He (Boullion) seemed to be just tumbling”.

Taylor and Miss Meenach right away rappelled down to Boullion. Upon examination of Boullion they determined there was nothing they could do. “A1 was very still. He had no pulse or respiration. I knew there was no hope” Taylor stated. Taylor then climbed back up to the top to help the party down.

The climbing party shouted and shot up a flare. This is what attracted the attention of Davis and Hicks, two snowshoers who notified Snow Ranger Kenneth E. White.

Source: Snow Ranger Kenneth E. White.

Analysis: 1. The party was very well equipped for a climb of this type.

The leaders also chose a route that was not too difficult. A problem, however, was that the party was too large for this route. A smaller party would have been much safer.

Even though Boullion was an experienced climber he made an unforgivable mistake, he unroped. He should have been belayed across, even though it was only 10 feet or so.

It was not established whether he had his wrist strap on or not but perhaps if he had not lost his ice-axe he could have stopped himself.

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