American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure — Alaska, Alaska Range, Mt. Denali

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

RAPPEL FAILURE—Alaska, Alaska Range, Mt. Denali. On 27 May 1974, a party of eight was descending after a successful climb up the Cassin Route on the south face of Mt. Denali. On the final pitch down to the head of the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, the group was using an 8 mm fixed line to rappel down. The line was one they had put in on the ascent and was anchored. Two climbers rappelled without incident. Then at 11:20 a.m. Yoshikazu Okada (22), a veteran of Jirishanca the previous year, and the most experienced member of the party, proceeded to rappel. No one immediately saw him. The line broke and he fell 800 feet to his death.

Analysis: The rope had been used extensively in getting loads onto the ledge. Nobody examined the rope before using it for rappel. A larger sized rope or use of a separate rope possibly could have prevented the accident. Close examination of the 8 mm fixed line by the last person to ascend might have revealed the damaged area. (Source: Ned William Lewis.)

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