American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Snow, Fall Into Moat, Inadequate Equipment, Climbing Unroped, Inexperience, Washington, Mount Constance

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

SLIP ON SNOW, FALL INTO MOAT, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, CLIMBING UNROPED, INEXPERIENCE

Washington, Mount Constance

On August 23, 1983, Shane Powell (23) and John Taylor left the trailhead on the Dosewallips at dawn to climb Mount Constance.

They ascended the Mountaineer route, then used the Finger Traverse to gain the summit. On the descent they climbed above the Finger Traverse, where they began to tire. When they reached the main chute, they elected to descend the ridge to the Cat’s Ears, then continue on the Mazama route, since the main chute appeared to be very icy. Below the Cat’s Ears, on the east side of the ridge, Shane fell whenstepping from the rock to hard snow, and slid 15 meters down the slope into a 4- meter-deep moat. Injuries included a broken right ankle, bruised right elbow, sprained right wrist, broken ribs and bruised right hip, but he was alert and coherent. Taylor made him as comfortable as possible, and after administering first aid, left him at the 2000-meter level and descended for help.

Taylor notified Olympic National Park at 2100, and they dispatched a two-person Hasty Team equipped with radios and medical gear, then contacted Olympic Mountain Rescue. A break in the weather allowed the park helicopter to land 60 meters below the accident site at 0700 as a five-person team was reaching the area. Shane was placed in a Cascade litter, raised out of the moat, and lowered to the helicopter.

One of the park Hasty Team, Martha Dearstyne, suffered a shoulder dislocation on the descent. (Source: Bergtrage, Mountain Rescue Council, Seattle, 83-15)

Analysis

This party had planned to complete the climb in one day. They took very light day packs, but carried no ropes, ice axes, crampons, or hard hats. The member of the Hasty Team was using an ice ax with a shaft that was too long for her. (Source: George Sainsbury, Seattle MRC)

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