American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Fall Into Moat, Inadequate Equipment, Wyoming, Tetons

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

LOSS OF CONTROL—VOLUNTARY GLISSADE, FALL INTO MOAT, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Wyoming, Tetons

Mark Anderson (29) arrived in Jackson on July 11 and met his friend Bob johnson. They were planning to climb the Grand Teton. Anderson and Johnson had been climbing together for about five years. They had been taught climbing by friends and had taken no formal climbing classes. Johnson had only done rock climbing and had done very little of that since he moved to North Dakota four years ago. Anderson had lived in the state of Washington for four years and had climbed on both rock and snow for the last few summers. Anderson was capable of leading 5.7 rock and had quite a bit of snow experience in the Pacific Northwest.

At the Jenny Lake Ranger Station on July 13, Ranger Bob Irvine signed Anderson and Johnson out for climbing the Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton on July 14. Irvine told them the Grand was in bad condition due to recent storms and they should expect lots of snow and ice on their descent of the Owen–Spalding route. He told them they would need ice axes.

After leaving the station the pair talked about needing ice axes. Since Anderson had left his ice axes at home in Washington, they decided that they would just avoid the snow and ice. They hiked in and camped on the lower saddle the night of July 13.

At 0600 on July 14, the pair left the lower saddle to attempt the Exum Ridge. They went too high before they crossed over toward Wall Street. When they finally realized their mistake, they decided to continue up the Owen–Spalding Route. They found a lot of ice on the route, but since they were equipped to climb the Exum Ridge, they avoided the icy places by climbing the nearby rock. The climb went well and after going to the summit, they were back on the lower saddle by 1500. They rested for a couple of hours and started down to the valley.

On the way down they descended some of the snowfields below the lower saddle by plunge stepping and glissading. As they approached the lower headwall, they realized that they were too far south to go around Spalding Falls and down the trail. They decided to traverse north across the 25- to 30-degree snow. The snowhad softened at the surface, but about five centimeters down it was quite hard. Anderson went first. Johnson thought that Anderson was blown off balance by a sudden gust of wind. For whatever reason, he sat back in the snow and started sliding. Larry Ware said that Anderson was doing a standing glissade, then he would fall back into a sitting glissade.

Anderson’s path took him right by Martine Ware. She said that he slid past her with a big smile and said, “Hello!” Just below her, Anderson saw the rock of the lower headwall come into view. M. Ware heard Anderson say, “Oh, shit,” and he rolled over and tried to arrest his descent.

He was unsuccessful. He slid off the snow where a melt-water stream emerges from under the snow. He slid over 6 meters of wet 15-degree rock and slipped through the waterfall where the rock steepens. About five meters below the lip of the falls, Anderson entered the half-meter-wide mouth of the moat carved by the falling water.

At some point, the waist belt on his back was released. His pack, sleeping bag, tent and visor were found on the talus ledge under the snow at the base of the falls.

The accident occurred about 1830. The high temperature in the valley was 28°C. In the late afternoon on such a warm day, a large volume of icy water was probably flowing over the falls. L. Ware and Johnson reached the lip of the moat within minutes. They looked and called, but they couldn’t see or hear Anderson.

At 1136 on July 16, Jenny Lake climbing rangers found Anderson’s body about 30 meters down the water-carved tunnel below the base of the falls. The coroner determined that Anderson had drowned. (Source: Dan Burgette, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis

Anderson’s decision to disregard the advice of the climbing ranger and to travel on steep snow without an ice ax were direct contributors to this accident. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.