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Fall on Snow/Ice, Fall into Crevasse, Climbing Unroped, Failure to Follow Route, Inadequate Protection, Inadequate Equipment, Weather — California, Mount Shasta


California, Mount Shasta

On Friday, September 28, 1984, Jerry Ackeret (45), John Sharp (32), John Colteaux (49) and Peter Muzio (38), all from the San Francisco area, attempted a climb of Mount Shasta via the north side. They started at North Gate and climbed the Hotlum-Bolum route, bivouacking overnight around the 3000 meter elevation. Saturday morning the party split up, Ackeret and Sharp heading back down and Muzio and Colteaux continuing on up the mountain. It was a calm, sunny day, and neither seemed to be expecting a storm. Both reached the summit and started down. It seems they were unaware of the topography, as they chose a route that led to one of the most dangerous and precipitous portions of the mountain—the headwall just above the Hotlum Glacier. Muzio, in the lead, attempted to cross a steep, six meter wide snow chute. He stepped out onto the chute to kick-test the conditions. Underneath the layer of snow was ice. Colteaux later recalled Muzio stating, “I don’t think it’s safe.” At that moment Muzio’s ice ax slipped and he fell down the chute about ten meters, struck two rock outcrops and disappeared. Colteaux called to Muzio for about a half hour, then climbed back to the summit hoping to find someone to go for help. It was almost sundown, and finding no one, Colteaux bivouacked on the summit. During the night of the 29th, it started to storm with blizzard conditions. He had no tent or sleeping bag. The only food he had was some peanuts and raisins from the day before. The storm continued until Sunday afternoon. Colteaux again got lost attempting to retreat via the south side. He wandered out onto the Whitney Glacier to around the 3950 meter elevation. Here he spent the night in a small crevasse. “I got up every half hour, stamped my feet and tried to keep everything from getting wet,” Colteaux stated. The sun rose at 0700 and Colteaux stated the route ahead was “terrible.”

In the meantime Sharp and Ackeret reported to the Siskiyou County Sheriff that Colteaux and Muzio were missing. The sheriffs office requested the California Highway Patrol helicopter to assist and the CHP observed Colteaux on a rock outcrop above the Whitney Glacier. They could not land because of the high winds.

Another helicopter was called in to help and rescued Colteaux. A hazardous searchfor Muzio resulted in finding his ice ax and some personal effects, with indications that they had been violently ripped from the owner. The area was steep and filled with large crevasses. The search was called off after discussion with the family. (Source: Dan Bryant, Punto Alto Mountaineering, Siskiyou County Sheriff)


Many climbers on Mount Shasta are not prepared for the mountaineering conditions they can encounter. Autumn is also recognized as a hazardous time to be on the mountain. The terrain Colteaux and Muzio were in called for the use of mountaineering equipment and techniques. (Source: Dan Bryant, Punto Alto Mountaineering, Siskiyou County Sheriff)