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Fall on Snow, Climbing Unroped, Placed No Protection, Colorado, Mt. Ypsilon


Colorado, Mt. Ypsilon

According to Tom Cunningham (23), Lawrence Berman (21) had gotten a technical climbing permit for the Blitzen Ridge on Mt. Ypsilon. They were to bivouac on the route on the night of July 20, which they did. On the morning of July 21, the two began their ascent of the intended route via the Blitzen Cutoff. The two climbed about 1200 vertical feet above the Spectacle Lakes via a ramp type ledge. A short distance from the top of the Blitzen Ridge proper, they encountered a section of steep rock that they were either going to ascend or circumvent on a 20- foot high snow bank. Up to that time the two had not been roped up, as the climbing had been very basic in nature. The decision was made to ascend the snow in order to eliminate having to rope up for about 20 feet of climbing. Cunningham started up the snowfield, kicking steps. When he was about ten to 15 feet up the snow, Berman started following in his steps. Cunningham estimates that Berman had taken only a couple of steps up the snow when for some unknown reason he slipped and fell from the snowbank. The terrain immediately below the snowfield was very high angle and when Berman slipped from the snow, his fall continued for some 1200 vertical feet.

Cunningham immediately began a descent of the route he and Berman had just climbed. Near the bottom of the route he began finding equipment that had been carried by Berman. At the bottom of the route, Cunningham began a search, but was unable to locate him, so he climbed to the top of a snowfield that ran from the westernmost Spectacle Lake up to the rock base of the route they had just climbed. Searching the bergschrund (top of a snowfield that melts away from rock faces) he began finding blood spots on the snow and followed them down into a crevasse below the bergschrund. There he found Berman and checked for signs of life, but found none.

Cunningham then left his equipment at the bergschrund to mark the body location and started hiking out from Spectacle Lake. He met Dennis Irwin at the eastern Spectacle Lake, told him what had happened and was then accompanied to the Lawn Lake trailhead by Irwin, where the incident was reported to rangers. Following a storm, evacuation was completed the next day. (Source: Larry Van Slyke, Rocky Mountain National Park)


According to Cunningham, Berman may have been somewhat intimidated by the exposure near the top of the route and may have leaned into the snowbank causing his step to break out under his weight. (Source: Larry Van Slyke, Rocky Mountain National Park)