American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Snow, Equipment Difficulty California, Sierra

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


California, Sierra

In June 1978, after completing a summit ski descent of Carson Peaks’ northeast bowl (10,000 feet) and traversing the rock band to the top of Devil’s Slide (9,200 feet), I regained my bivouac gear and began skiing the 1600-foot vertical couloir. After completing the difficult sections and reaching the broader, less steep slopes below, I fell over my ski tips and fractured my right hand (second metacarpal, index finger). Rescue was not necessary as it was possible to continue. (Source: Omar Hansen)


The fall itself may be attributed to a relaxation of concentration after finishing the steep, upper bowl and the narrow Devil’s Slide with full pack. The fracture itself is, however, directly attributable to the type of ski pole worn. Falling head first over my ski tips with full pack left no choice but to extend my hands to break the fall. The moulded plastic grip did not leave my hand, and the plastic upper knob of the grip protruded sufficiently to fracture the bone.

As both a voluntary and professional ski patrolman since 1963, I have had the opportunity to witness a number of wrist strap-induced injuries—particularly dislocated thumbs and strains or fractures of the wrist. It seems preferable to avoid the use of wrist straps, particularly in avalanche terrain, thus assuring freedom from the pole during a fall. However, it should also be pointed out that the modern, contoured, hard plastic grips also present a significant hazard if caught between a hard snow surface and bones, such as in the hand or rib cage. (Source: Omar Hansen)

(Ed. Note: This accident report, while minor, is reported because of the potential for prevention of future ski mountaineering accidents by heeding Hansen’s advice.)

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