American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, Washington, Sloan Peak

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

FALL ON ROCK, CLIMBING UNROPED

Washington, Sloan Peak

Matthew Strominger (22) fell 1,000 feet to his death on Sloan Peak on July 15. He and his two partners were only a few hundred feet from the summit of the 7,835-foot peak.

Strominger was part of a seven-member expedition attached to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit group based in Lander, Wyoming, that teaches wilderness and conservation skills. The organization has branches in Alaska, Baja California, Africa and Washington state, according to its director, Charles Ialla.

Ialla said Monday night in a telephone interview that Strominger and two other climbers decided to try and scale Sloan Peak while their four companions decided to hike to a lower level. Ialla said the accident occurred when Strominger and his two companions were traversing a slope.

Strominger fell about 10 a.m. The other climbers then retreated to the point where they had seen his body disappear. Determining that they could not safely reach him, the group hiked ten miles to Darrington, the nearest town with a telephone, about 90 miles northeast of Seattle. They reported the accident to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department Sunday night.

Strominger lost a handhold on a rock above his head, shifting too much weight to one foot, which in turn caused the ledge he was standing on to give way. According to Sgt. John Taylor, head of the 12-man rescue team attached to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, Strominger was found beneath a glacier in an ice cave at the 6,400-foot level. Although the air temperature on the mountain was 80 degrees, Taylor said it was near freezing underneath the glacier as rescuers, clad in rain gear to ward off cascading melting water, cautiously made their way to the accident victim. (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 16, 1979).

Analysis

The group was not using ropes at the time. (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 16, 1979, quoting Sgt. John Taylor.)

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