American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Descending Unroped, Alaska, Chugach State Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1979

FALL ON SNOW, DESCENDING UNROPED

Alaska, Chugach State Park

On the evening of August 7, 1978, Mark Figura (24), Bob Mintz (27), and Ralph Duerre (35) were enroute from Eklutna to Girdwood on a glacier trek. Figura was descending the 700-foot Raven Head Wall unroped and fell. He reportedly slid approximately 100 feet down a steep snow gully in a self-arrest position, plunged off the 12-foot upper lip of a bergschrund, struck the lower lip and fell another 30-plus vertical feet to an ice ledge. Although injured and in shock, he managed to climb from the crevasse unaided. It took 20 minutes for his partners to reach him and render assistance. They bivouacked approximately two hours and then helped Figura two miles down Raven Glacier to a point near Crow Pass. Figura was suffering from multiple bruises and lacerations and had lost approximately one pint of blood. Duerre ran for help in Girdwood while Mintz stayed to care for the now immobilized Figura. Alert was given at 12:45 a.m., August 8, with call out taking 45 minutes, plus an additional one hour of road travel to the marshalling area at Crow Pass Trailhead. SAR elements of the Alaska Rescue Group and REACT (commo support) coordinated by Ranger Doug Fessler, Chugach State Park, departed the trailhead for the rescue site at 3:30 a.m. and traveled four miles uphill over Crow Pass to reach the victim at 5 a.m. The victim was becoming hypothermic and was treated with warm fluids, I.V. solution, and lytocaine. Communication was established with Rescue Coordination Center (R.C.C.), Elmendorf Air Force Base, and an Air Force HH-3 helicopter with paramedic on board arrived on scene at 6:15 a.m. to transport the victim to Providence Hospital, Anchorage, for admission at 7:25 a.m. (Source: Rangers D. Fessler and D. Hourihan, Chugach State Park)

Analysis

Figura was fortunate in not sustaining more serious injuries in a fall of this nature. The Raven Head Wall is one of the more hazardous sections of this particular glacier traverse and roped/belayed travel is recommended and, perhaps, would have restricted this fall to a short ride and continued, enjoyable trip. (Source: Rangers D. Fessler and D. Hourihan, Chugach State Park)

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