American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Party Separated – Washington, Mt. Torment

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

FALLING ROCK, PARTY SEPARATED—Washington, Mt. Torment. Sharon Goss was the leader of a Mountaineers trip to Mt. Torment which included five others. On Saturday, August 20, at 3:30 p.m., the party was ascending Boston Basin, halfway between Mt. Torment and Forbidden Peak, at the 5800-foot level. They were on the west side of a “grungy” ravine about 40 feet high when Charlotte Twight (age unknown), who was halfway up, was struck by a rock dislodged by someone above. She was hit in the forehead, and while there was no medical emergency, stitches were indicated. (Source: The Mountaineers —Accident Report Form.)

Analysis: This is one of a number of accidents of its kind which have occurred in guided or club-sponsored trips in the past few years. The results were less serious in this one, but the ingredients are common to all such trips. First, by their nature, guided or club trips generally include several parties. Second, the individuals have varying degrees of acumen in terms of sensing inherent dangers. Therefore, there are only two courses of action reasonable in gullies or couloirs with potential rock/ice fall (and this means most, if not all such gullies): while ascending (leader in front) or descending (leader in back) (1) the party — hopefully no more than eight to ten — needs to remain one immediately behind the other; or (2) each member should go one at a time (belayed or unbelayed, as circumstances dictate), while other members are sequestered in a safe area, out of any potential fall line. Additionally, if the potential for rock or ice fall exists, hard hats and gloves are indicated. (Source: J. Williamson.)

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