American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Stuart Range, Mt. Stuart

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

Washington, Stuart Range, Mt. Stuart. On 16 October there were three separate climbing teams consisting of two climbers per team on the same route. A massive rock fall came off the ridge all funneling into the chute that the climbers were in. The rocks were airborne as they passed over the lead team and hit in the area of Mark Weigelt (22) and Earl Hamilton (29). They heard it coming. Weigelt caught the full force of the fall. Hamilton put his pack on the slope and jambed his ice-axe in behind it for support and got behind the pack. The rock hit his pack with such force it broke the pack in three pieces and shattered his ice-axe. It is surmised that the force of the pack against his head gave him the compression fracture he suffered. He also sustained some rib and hip injury and a broken finger. He was rendered unconscious and remained so for a couple of hours. Neither climber was wearing a hard hat. An ice screw that had been placed prior to the rock fall held and kept the climbers from sliding 600 feet to the glacier below. The other climbers reached Weigelt. They listened to his chest for heartbeat and checked for breathing but detected neither. Hamilton was lowered some 600 feet to the glacier by the climbers and was not told of the fate of his companion. The climbers cared for him through the night and helped load him in the chopper in the morning.

The MAST crew could see Weigelt in the snow chute and were told by Dunham that he was deceased. They lifted out Hamilton. Were it not for the other climbers on the same route at the time, Hamilton most likely would not have survived. The small party of climbers did a fine job in the rescue effort of Earl Hamilton. The M.R.C. forces had all the right gear with them to make the job rather easy. Probably the hardest job was for the personnel belaying and the one helping them pull five lengths of 160-foot ropes up the slope. The chainsaw motor and winch never skipped a beat and was not difficult to start at that elevation. They did notice that the 5/32-inch cable twisted more as it came off the capstan than the 3/16- inch cable does.

The teams from Ellensburg, Yakima, Wenatchee and Tacoma worked extremely well together.

The operation over fairly difficult terrain was a simple straight-forward operation — a 600-foot-plus lift up 40 to 50 degree snow slope. There was danger of rock fall in the chute for the two who went down to do the loading. They descended and ascended on either side of the chute.

Source: John Simac and Hal Foss.

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