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Washington, Mount Adams

Washington, Mount Adams. On February 3rd Keith Edwards (age 24) and Dwain Hess (19) established a base camp below Goat Butte at the foot of Mt. Adams. Their purpose was to scout the area for a later climb by a larger group, possibly up the Rusk Glacier. On the 4th, in excellent weather, they climbed the mountain via the Wilson Glacier. On their descent they fell over an ice wall near the top of the Lyman Glacier. It is not known whether their fall was caused by a slip, by a small ice avalanche, or by mistakenly taking the wrong route. Hess died at the site of the fall, and his open down jacket suggested to rescuers that he never regained consciousness. Edwards suffered a fractured skull and broken leg and ribs in the fall. With bare hands he was able to pull himself forward through the snow for about a mile toward their camp before he died. The two climbers were first reported missing by friends on the 5th, their camp was located on the 7th, a barely visible trail led to Edwards’ body on the 8th, and Hess was found on the 9th. Bad weather prevented the evacuation of Hess’s body until the 23rd. (Sources: L. K. Buchanan, Hal Foss, Gordon White.)

Analysis: Both climbers were competent, and Edwards in particular was experienced and strong. The excellent weather led them to try an ambitious climb, but the rope of two was too small to cope with any serious mishap. A rope with several climbers attached might have been able to stop the fall. Another rope of two could have assisted the injured and started the evacuation.