American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Climbing Alone, Improper Equipment – California, Mt. Shasta

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

CLIMBING ALONE, IMPROPER EQUIPMENT—California, Mt. Shasta. Some time on the 15th of September, John Saulsberry (55) attempted a climb of Mt. Shasta from the ski bowl. On the evening of the 15th and 16th an early storm hit the area, dropping large amounts of snow down to the 7000- and 8000-foot levels.

When he was reported missing by his wife, after Saulsberry failed to return home on Saturday, Siskiyou County Sheriff Search and Rescue began to search. The Sheriffs Department first became aware of a missing person when a caretaker at the bowl notified a friend, who notified the Sheriffs Department. They sent a deputy to the ski bowl to check out the reported incident. The deputy followed a snow plow all the way into the ski bowl. There was some question as to what had happened since Saulsberry had not notified local authorities about his climb of the mountain. Because of continued extremely poor weather, a good search was not begun until the 20th. The Sheriffs Department used helicopter and foot searches but could find no trace of Saulsberry.

Other climbers had seen Saulsberry on the mountain and stated he wore a green down vest and a slicker. Saulsberry had written his wife stating that he was going to climb Mt. Hood in Oregon but realized he did not have the proper equipment so he returned to Mt. Shasta. Saulsberry stayed at a motel in the city of Mt. Shasta and told the manager he was going to “climb around the mountain.” His body had not been found as of January 14, 1978. (Source: Don Bryant, Punto Alto Mountaineering School.)

Analysis: Saulsberry did not adhere to four of the basic rules of mountaineering: (1) he failed to notify local authorities of his climb; (2) he climbed alone with little mountain experience; (3) he was dressed improperly and carried no mountain or climbing gear, which would include survival gear; and (4) though the weather had been clear, there were current weather reports which clearly indicated a fast approaching storm. (Source: Don Bryant, and Sgt. Jourden of Siskiyou County Search and Rescue.)

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