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Faulty Use of Crampons, Inadequate Protection — Alaska, The Rooster Comb


Alaska, The Rooster Comb

Eric Winkleman (25) and Alex Lowe (23) were flown into the East Fork of the Ruth Glacier with the Alice and the Agressors team on April 26, 1982.

On May 5, early in the morning, Winkleman and Lowe started up the British Route on the north face of The Rooster Comb. Lowe stopped a third of the way up on a 55-degree ice slope to put in an ice screw. At that point, Lowe’s Footfang crampon front points temporarily failed to spread; he lost crampon contact and began to fall. He fell below his belayer (Winkelman), hit the rock walls and split his helmet in two. In the 50-meter fall, Lowe injured his finger. The duo rappelled the route and Lowe was flown off the Ruth by Doug Geeting at 1400.

In Talkeetna, Jon Waterman put a sling on Lowe’s arm at 1445 and Doug Geeting flew Lowe to the Providence Hospital in Anchorage at 1500. Lowe’s injury was diagnosed as a dislocated finger. (Source: Jon Waterman, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)


This report is significant because the accident was brought on by equipment failure. Had Lowe used the new snow piece for Footfangs (available from Lowe Alpine Systems), he could have prevented the spreading failure. Also, if both of his axes had been firmly planted in the ice, it is unlikely that he would have fallen. (Source: Jon Waterman, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)