American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Snoqualmie Pass Area, Alta, Mt

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

Washington, Snoqualmie Pass area, Alta Mt. On 21 May a party of eleven led by Fred Wright left their cars at 0630 and hiked north, on the east side of Gold Creek, for about 2 hours, then headed up Rampart Ridge

arriving at the scene of the accident (about 4,800 feet elevation) about 0940. They had just taken a break and were getting ready to continue the climb when four or five rocks started rolling down the slope toward them. They yelled “rock”, and began to take evasive action, but Rebecca Rosenbaum (19) was hit on her left thigh by a large boulder which knocked her down. She began screaming and sliding down the slope and was stopped by one of the party who called out that she had a severe leg injury.

Wright got to her within five or ten seconds as did Bill Thayer and they immediately realized she had a compound fracture with a severe open wound (about 6-8 inches long). After they ascertained the degree of the injury, Wright directed two of the party — Bob Hammond, the strongest climber, and another, to head out fast to the cars and then to the Summit to report the accident to the Forest Service and to start rescue operations.

They applied compresses, heavy bandages and then used two ice-axes to splint the leg securely. They added heavy clothing, gave her two codeine tablets for the severe pain, and began the slow process of moving her off the snow slope to the protection of the wooded area which was about 400 feet below. They set up boot-axe belays and three of them slid the girl down using their bodies or arms as skids.

Bob Hammond made excellent time, arriving at the Summit at approximately 1145. He phoned the King County Sheriff who contacted the Kittitas County Sheriff who immediately called Bob back at the Summit. Bob advised the details of the accident and terrain and insisted the only safe evacuation would be by chopper. The Sheriff agreed and kept in touch with Bob as to his progress about every 15 minutes.

About 1340 the Army chopper rescue unit arrived at the Summit in an area set aside by the State Police and County Sheriff, picked Bob up and he directed it to the area.

Meanwhile they had set up a rough shelter, built a fire, kept the patient warm and fed her some warm broth and some warm sweet tea. They checked the bandage regularly for bleeding, and her legs for circulation, cutting the laces of her boots and gaitors as necessary.

They also had sent out a second party of two to mark the trail with streamers in case a land rescue was necessary.

With the cloud layer only a few hundred feet above them, they were very concerned about the possibility of a chopper rescue, so when they heard the sound of its engine coming down the valley, they were very relieved. The slope was too steep for it to land so the chopper lowered the Stokes stretcher which they unhooked. It was no problem to move the girl carefully into the basket, cover her and strap her in securely and return to the clearing in a matter of a few minutes.

The chopper returned when they saw all was ready and with very professional know-how lifted her at just the right time into the cabin.

Because of a previous emergency, they were directed to a doctor stand- ing by in Ole Elum and after he attended to her, the chopper took the patient to Harborview Medical Center.

Source: Fred M. Wright and Hal Foss.

Analysis: The best thing that happened all day was the arrival of the chopper — but the second best was the information that Bob Hammond gave us later on. He said both the chopper para-medic and the doctor remarked about the fine job we had done in handling the victim, bandaging the wound, the splints and the evacuation. Without the full cooperation of all units as well as the excellent support of each of the climbers in our party, we could not have succeeded.

(This is a good example of a well-organized rescue and demonstrates what a well-trained and experienced group can accomplish, ed)

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