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Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, Washington, Lundin Peak


Washington, Lundin Peak

On October 11, 1980, Jerry Pruitt (33) assistant leader on a club climb sponsored by The Mountaineers, fell about 600 feet to his death after he slipped while descending Lundin Peak. The following is an edited account from the original by the trip leader, Dorothy Curren:

“The party left the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot at 8:10 a.m. on October 11. We reached the Red Mountain/Lundin Pass at 10:30 a.m. At 11 a.m. we were 50 feet south of the false summit and ready to climb down the 30-foot gully to the ledge which leads to the notch between the first and second false summits. Everyone put on hard hats at this point. I told the party that the gully was a little uncomfortable at one spot to down climb when one had not had a chance to see it and climb up it. A belay would be set up for anyone who wanted it. Pruitt climbed down and John Francini followed him. Bob McFann asked for a belay and the rest said they would use it since it was set up. Pruitt climbed part way back up to the gully to help these people over the difficult spot. He stood on a fairly large flat area off to the right side of the gully and above some trees growing out of the cliff below. He offered them verbal help about holds as needed. When all four were down, I coiled the rope and climbed down to the same flat area where Pruitt was waiting for me. We discussed the idea of belaying people down this spot and he felt it had been a good idea considering the abilities of the four climbers and their not being able to see it before climbing it. He said it was his first “Club” climb and he had not known what to expect. From this flat area the gully was reentered by going down to the left. I started down the route used by three of the other climbers away from the edge of the cliff. At the same time Pruitt started along the edge of the cliff where loose rock was piled up. One of the other climbers had also chosen this way down without having any trouble with the loose rock. He had been facing me (up the slope) with his back to the cliff. As he turned to head down, the rocks shifted and Pruitt lost his balance. He appeared to hop a little to try to regain his balance and he fell out over the edge. He fell through the trees and struck the edge of the ledge where the others were waiting. I did not see him strike this ledge because of my position above the trees, but some of those below did see him strike it. I did see him strike again further down and then I immediately continued to down climb to the rest of the party. I was afraid that others had been struck by him, but this was not the case. Their various comments were that they had heard the rocks moving (rocks did not come down on them), seen the trees move, seen him strike the ledge and fall on down.”

The climbing group and rescuers carried out a well-organized and safe evacuation by 2:30 a.m. on October 12. (Source: Accident Report Form—The Mountaineers, including a narrative by Dorothy Curren)


This is the kind of accident that happens more frequently on descents than ascents. Apparently stable talus turns out not to be and requires care and testing. Sometimes trees on these slopes can give a false sense of security as well. This is an example of another accident where a leader became a victim. (Source: J. Williamson)