American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Failure to Follow Route, California, Mt. Whitney

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

FALL ON ROCK, FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE

California, Mt. Whitney

Rollie Averitt (58) and Mark Smith were climbing Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineer’s Route on July 19. As they neared the top of the chute, Averitt left the tedious scree and boulders in the center of the chute and climbed up on the Class 3-4 wall on the left. He was about 20 feet up when he fell. He bounced another 30-40 feet after landing back in the chute. He suffered a severe concussion, skull fracture, fractured neck vertebrae, and lacerations. He was helicoptered to the hospital. (Source: Dennis Burge and Bill Stronge, China Lake Mountain Rescue)

Analysis

This accident parallels four hiking accidents this year, three of which were on Mt. Whitney and one on Mt. Langley. Two on Mt. Whitney resulted in fatalities. In all these cases, the victims were off route and thus became immediately involved in a situation which required climbing knowledge and equipment. These mountains, like many others in the United States, are popular because they have a trail or trails which can be walked without specialized equipment or training. They are also, in many cases, readily accessible. Hikers, both experienced and inexperienced, would do well to become alerted to conditions off these trails, to be aware that even hiking trails can become a climbing problem if snow or ice are present, and to stay on the trail they have set out to walk. (Source: J. Williamson and Dennis Burge)

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