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Falling Rock, Washington, Cathedral Rock

FALLING ROCK

Washington, Cathedral Rock

About 10:30 a.m. on September 23, our party was proceeding up to the chockstone on the Northwest couloir on Cathedral Rock. I was leading the party approximately 50 feet ahead, in order to determine the rope-up point. I stepped on a fractured area of the rock block I was moving over. When I removed my foot, a section two feet by three feet in size broke off and shot down the couloir taking loose material with it. This section hit Anne Griffin (apparently on her pack) and knocked her down.

Griffin was caught and prevented from falling by Marv Olson. Upon reaching her, I found that she was stunned and dizzy but coherent. She was bleeding slightly from her nose, her elbow was bruised and she had chipped a tooth. I checked the pupils of her eyes and they were even. We made her comfortable and treated her for shock, allowing her to rest for approximately 45 minutes. After resting, Griffin said she was all right and would be able to walk out. We divided her equipment among the members of the climbing party. I put her in the middle of a shortened rope, and we proceeded down the mountain slowly.

Upon reaching the meadow near the trail intersection, we unroped and rested for a half hour and then started down the trail, arriving at the cars at 4:30 p.m. I checked with Griffin the following Thursday after the climb, and she said she felt all right except for bruises. (Source: Hubert Favero, The Mountaineers Accident Report Form)

Analysis

In retrospect, I should not have been scouting above the party. I should have realized that the loose material in the lower part of the couloir had to originate from the fractured rock in the upper reaches of the couloir; rock that seems solid breaks off easily. I feel that we were very fortunate that there was not a very serious injury or a fatality due to the size of the rockfall and the confinement in the area of the rockfall. (Source: Hubert J. Favero, The Mountaineers Accident Report Form)