American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall into Concealed Crevasse—Washington, Mt. St. Helens

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1977

FALL INTO CONCEALED CREVASSE—Washington, Mt. St. Helens. On May 29 Professor John Patrick O’Shea (46) of Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, was leading a group of students from his mountaineering class at OSU, in a climb to the top of Mt. St. Helens. At 11:30 a.m. Professor O’Shea, his wife Carolyn (39), Ruth Beers and Dennis Welbourn who were in one team of four roped together, were ascending the mountain and crossed a crevasse at the 8,400 feet level, which they did not know existed. Professor O’Shea said that there was no indication of the crevasse or any other type of warning to indicate that there was a crevasse which they were crossing. Apparently there was a snow bridge acroes this crevasse and when the O’Shea group got onto the bridge, it caved in in an area approximately 100 feet by 100 feet. Both the O’Sheas fell into the crevasse approximately 30 to 50 feet below the top edge of the crevasse. Professor O’Shea was buried under approximately 4 feet of heavy, wet snow. Mrs. O’Shea also fell into the same general area as her husband. All of these four were roped approximately 30 feet apart.

Professor O’Shea was dug out by the other members of his entire group and upon reaching Mrs. O’Shea, they simply followed and dug along the rope until they found where she was trapped. Both were slightly injured—Mrs. O’Shea complained of a soreness in both her back and her right shoulder. However, neither she nor her husband felt that it was serious enough to go to the doctor. Professor O’Shea complained of a soreness in his chest and rib area and he also had a small laceration in the top right hand side of the skull. As was said before, both injuries were minor, there was reportedly a doctor with another group which was camped nearby, but neither of the O’Sheas felt that it was necessary to go to talk to the doctor or to have the doctor look at them.

At the time of the accident, Professor O’Shea stated that visibility was 100%, it was clear and there were nice weather conditions. However, during the rescue effort, winds were gusting from 50 to 70 miles per hour and started to snow, was clouded in and foggy and at times there were “white out” conditions. Mr. O’Shea was buried for somewhere between one to two hours. (Source: Sgt. Clinton Peters) (Ed. Note: For a complete account by Professor O’Shea, see Northwest Magazine, August 8, 1976.)

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