American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Alone, Darkness — Washington, Nooksack Tower

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

FALL ON ROCK, CLIMBING ALONE, DARKNESS

Washington, Nooksack Tower

On the weekend of September 1-2, 1984, a party consisting of Alex Bertulis, his daughter, Stimson Bullett, and Rimas Gylys (26) climbed Nooksack Tower. Bertulis is the acknowledged expert on the peak, with some 15 ascents and at least one new route to his credit. All members of the party were very experienced. After a long series of rappels, they arrived at their high camp at 0300 on Monday, the 3rd. Gylys, who was employed in Vancouver, British Columbia, felt that he had to get to work or he would lose his job, so he continued on to his car alone. The remaining party members descended leisurely, since it was Labor Day and they had no time pressures. On arriving at the road end at 1800, they found Gylys’s car still in place. They reported to the Whatcom County Sheriff, and the search was started the next morning. The weather deteriorated badly, and air search was spasmodic at best. However, three days of intensive ground search was conducted by Bellingham MRC, Skagit MRU, Chillwack, BC Rescue Group, Seattle MRC, and Tacoma MRU taking part at one time or another.

The ground portion of the search was closed on Thursday night, but a long day of helicopter search was conducted on Friday. The ground search was reopened on the weekend, with participation by Chilliwack, Bellingham and Skagit. Gylys was found late on Sunday by a member of Skagit MRU as the teams were returning from the field. The verbal report that has reached us is that the Skagit searcher almost walked off the end of a switchback low on the trail and saw a portion of a headlamp below him on a little ledge. Searchers quickly rappelled down and found Gylys at the base of

a 25 meter wall. He is thought to have died instantly from head injuries. (Source: Bergtrage, Seattle Mountain Rescue Council, 84-16, September 1984).

Analysis

Apparently, Gylys wandered off the not well marked trail in darkness. (Source: Rick Murphy, MRA Mission Report #84-481).

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