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Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Faulty Use of Crampons, Inexperience

About 10:30 a.m. on July 31, 1980, Donald Morgan (48) who was leading one of two roped teams descending the Emmons Glacier, lost control of his sitting glissade when he dropped his right leg; this caused his crampon to catch in such a way that it forced his leg under his body. As a result, he sustained an open fracture of the tibia just above the ankle. The group consisted of nine members, of whom only five members of the lower rope team descended to Camp Schurman to report the injury. Morgan’s leg was splinted with two pickets and he was put into two sleeping bags. By 5:30 p.m., the weather had deteriorated and Morgan was becoming hypothermic. A helicopter evacuation was called for and completed by 8:40 p.m. The evacuation was complicated by 100 mph-winds (caused by prop wash) creating a -15°F wind chill factor, the need to raise the litter vertically through the hatch, and a winch that wasn’t working properly. (Source: Mark Eidemillar, Mt. Rainier National Park)

Analysis

According to the sign-out registration, Morgan’s previous experience consited of hiking to Camp Muir three times. Glissading with crampons on, even for an experienced person, is a delicate exercise. The temptation to drop a foot for use as a rudder can be great and, for the beginner, an involuntary reaction. Glissading requires practice. For the uninitiated, it would be better to walk down. In general, removing crampons before glissading is advisable. (Source: J. Williamson)