American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Failure to Follow Route, Party Separated, Slip on Snow, Weather — Washington, Mount Rainier

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

FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE, PARTY SEPARATED, SLIP ON SNOW, WEATHER

Washington, Mount Rainier

On May 29, 1984, at 0900 three groups of U. S. Army Rangers from the Huckleberry Creek Army Training Center just outside of the North Park Boundary left Paradise for a summit climb. There were approximately 20 Rangers divided into three groups. They had intended to do some climbing around Camp Muir, then possibly try for a summit climb and be back down to Paradise on May 31 or June 1.

On May 30, a group of five of them from different groups joined and chose to descend to Paradise from Camp Muir. The weather that day at Muir and above was very poor with high winds and blowing snow. During the descent the group lost their bearings around the 3000 meter level on the Muir Snowfield and became lost. During the descent, Stephen Long (22) reported twisting a previously injured and chronic right knee. Unable to continue on, the group holed up. The next morning three of the five reascended to approximately 3000 meters then descended the Muir Snowfield to Paradise—in poor weather—and summoned help from us. Long was found along with a buddy above the Paradise Ice Caves area. Long was evacuated via toboggan to Paradise. He was transported to Fort Lewis for further medical attention by Schumacher. (Source: Bundy Phillips, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

Analysis

On the day the group left from Paradise to go to Camp Muir, I watched them for about three hours. They were strung out from below 2000 meters to about 2600 meters. The group split up at Camp Muir, and the five who became lost were actually headed down Paradise Glacier. There seemed to be no leadership in the group. (Source: Bundy Phillips, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

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