American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Ice, Washington, Mt. Rainer

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

FALLING ICE

Washington, Mt. Rainier

Dr. John DonLou (34), anesthesiologist from Palos Verdes, California, said today he is still “shell-shocked” over the loss of his right arm in a climbing accident on Mt. Rainier and doesn’t know what the future holds.

The arm was amputated above the elbow Sunday at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Hospital, after what DonLou called “a freak accident” on Liberty Ridge, about 1,000 feet from the summit, at 9:30 a.m. on June 22.

“I have complete amnesia about the accident myself,” DonLou said in a telephone interview from his Palos Verdes home. “I know only what my two climbing companions have told me.”

Those companions—Jari Secher-Jensen of Tacoma and Bob Cedergreen, a Palos Verdes physician—said DonLou was struck by a falling piece of ice, weighing from 200 to 300 pounds.

“I was conscious for about ten minutes,” DonLou said. “When I awoke, I was hanging, suspended upside down, and my right arm was useless. My friends, who were not hit by the ice but were tumbled a ways down the mountain, came back to me and moved me to a ledge about 50 feet above where the accident occurred. They wrapped me in sleeping bags and went for help. It arrived about eight hours later.”

The arm, DonLou said, was so badly crushed that “there was no hope of saving it.” “I had come to your state for the express purpose of climbing Mt. Rainier,” DonLou said. “It was a wonderful experience—until the freak accident.”

DonLou said he had been climbing for about two years, mostly on rock. One of his biggest regrets, he said, “is that I probably will never climb again.”

It is still much too early to talk about his future as an anesthesiologist, DonLou said.

48 / ACCIDENTS IN NORTH AMERICAN MOUNTAINEERING

“I certainly cannot practice at this time. Fitted with a proper prosthesis, I might, in time, be able to work again. Two arms are vital in my work.

“But, because of my experience, it is quite possible that I could enter the teaching field.”

DonLou said he is married and the father of a six month old daughter. (Source: The Seattle Times, June 27, 1979)

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