American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Slip on Snow, Collapsed Cornice, Alaska, Mt. Hunter

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980


Alaska, Mt. Hunter

Masamitsu Urayama (29) and Yutaka Shinohara (40) registered through Jack Kim to climb the north face of Mount Hunter. Their attempt on the Lowe/Kennedy route was stopped by a large crevasse one-third of the way up the route. They abandoned their attempt and moved to the west ridge to make another attempt at climbing Mt. Hunter. Sometime during the day of May 9, while climbing at the 9,000-foot level of the west ridge, they were moving along a corniced section of the ridge. The cornice they were climbing on collapsed beneath them and they both fell approximately 20 meters, stopping in a hidden crevasse. Urayama was buried in the snow with only one of his feet exposed, and presumably died quickly. Shinohara received several injuries (torn ligaments in one knee, bruised ribs, lacerations on mouth, loosened teeth, possible broken nose) and was unconscious for a period of time. When Shinohara awoke, he tried unsuccessfully to dig Urayama out of the snow but passed out again. When he regained consciousness he tried a second time to free Urayama from the snow but was again unsuccessful.

The decision was made not to attempt recovery of Urayama’s body. The following factors were considered in making the decision. (1) Hartzell’s aerial inspection of the accident site indicated a significant amount of risk to any rescue team; this observation was confirmed by two other climbing parties that passed by the accident site (without seeing Urayama’s body) and by Talkeetna glacier pilots who flew over the area. (2) Urayama’s family requested that his body not be recovered if any risk to rescue parties existed. (Source: Robert Gerhard, Mt. McKinley National Park)

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