American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Unroped, Inexperience — California, Mount Gilbert

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985


California, Mount Gilbert

On October 14, 1984, Richard Harris (24) was climbing the 300 meter north couloir of Mount Gilbert (3990 meters) with Jim Jacobs. Jacobs, the more experienced, was instructing Harris. They had a rope, but were not using it. About 16 meters from the top of the couloir, Harris slipped. He fell about 250 meters down the 50 to 60 degree couloir to the glacier below. After regaining consciousness, he complained of back pain and probable broken ankles. Jacobs was apparently unnerved by the experience and would/could not descend the couloir unaided.

The accident was observed by other climbers who attended to Harris and went for help. Another party in the vicinity was able to carry some overnight gear to assist Jacobs; they climbed the couloir using headlamps and descended safely the next morning. The China Lake Mountain Rescue Group assisted in the resuce, and flew Harris to the hospital the next morning. (Source: Robert Rockwell, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group)


Surviving a fall of this length and having the good fortune to be helped by others in an isolated area like this will hopefully not provide confidence to other potential free solo climbers that such is the usually the result. (Source: J. Williamson)

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