American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Inexperience, Washington, Little Tahoma

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984


Washington, Little Tahoma

On August 20, 1983, a party of three, Bryan Harris (leader), Susan Harris (28) and Tom Anderson registered to climb Little Tahoma via the Fryingpan Glacier. They took the trail to Summerland and then climbed to about 2000 meters on the Meany Crest, where camp was made. They had a hot dinner and went to sleep about 2200. S. Harris did not sleep well, waking often during the night.

On August 21 about 0700, they woke and had breakfast. S. Harris took some aspirins. (B. Harris thought she did this because of a sore knee.) They left camp about 0800. They took trail food, coats, and rain gear. They climbed all but the last rock section roped, reached the summit about 1400 and stayed only a short time.

S. Harris and Anderson descended first. All three reached the top of the snow. The plan was to glissade the entire Fryingpan Glacier unroped, even though Susan had limited experience. Anderson started down first. S. Harris started and then slipped. She was not self-arresting properly and lost her ice ax. She slipped about 120 meters, hit some rocks and dropped into a small moat hole next to Anderson and B. Harris, who got her out.

A survey of her injuries revealed a suspected broken left ankle, some cuts on her head, and cuts and contusions to the left forearm.

Bryan Harris started down solo across the Fryingpan Glacier. He found Ranger Sally Hickerson at Summerland, who reported the accident via radio at 1607. A helicopter evacuation was completed by 2020. Harris was administered first aid and treatment at the Longmire Administration Building and then transported by her husband to a hospital. She had broken five bones in her foot and sprained her wrist. She required stitches for her head wounds. (Source: Edward Wilson, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)


This is another of several accidents in this category. The examples all have the same message: basic techniques require practice. (Source: J. Williamson)

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