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Fall on Ice – California, Mendel Glacier

FALL ON ICE—California, Mendel Glacier. John Moore (31) stated that at 2 p.m., on September 4, he and his climbing partner, Carl Van Horn (25) were attempting to climb the right hand ice gully, north face of the Mendel Glacier. While attempting to change belay points, Van Horn lost his catch with his crampons and ice hammer and fell approximately 150 feet down the Glacier. Four protection points had been placed and Moore was able to arrest Van Horn’s fall. Van Horn apparently suffered a broken ankle, possible broken jaw and multiple abrasions and contusions.

Following the fall, Moore down climbed and assisted Van Horn off the glacier and over to a rock ledge. Another group of unidentified climbers were also attempting the glacier and saw the accident. The group down climbed and sent a message via an unknown fisherman to Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Inyo then notified Yosemite National Park.

After first verifying the incident with Inyo County Sheriffs Office, permission for a medivac was requested and received from the Chief Ranger at 9:24 p.m. After studying the area and the report, a request for the Lemoore SAR helicopter was requested and approved by 9:50 p.m. Equipment was assembled and a rescue team of ice climbers consisting of Dave Beck, Craig Thorn and Pat Lasswell was notified and requested to meet with Reporting Rangers at 6 a.m. on September 5. After a search of some 40 minutes the party of two climbers was located on a rock ledge apparently in good shape. After a study of the area, the Lemoore crew indicated they would attempt a twin hover pickup. All Park Service climbers and one crew member were off loaded in a meadow and the Lemoore ship completed a very intricate hover pickup of the two climbers. The party was taken to Bishop and transported to Bishop Hospital. (Source: John L. Chew, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Park.)

Analysis: It seems that loss of concentration while moving from a climbing position to a belaying position was the primary cause of this accident. Van Horn described the move as not too difficult. It was that moment between, when one feels the climbing is over. (Source: John L. Chew, Sequoia and King’s Canyon Park.)