American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock/Snow, Climbing Unroped, Inexperience — Wyoming, Wind Rivers

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


Wyoming, Wind Rivers

The following report was sent in by Mark Dale, who was also involved in searching for the victim in the previous report. Dale and his climbing partner, Jeff Hunt, cut their planned stay in the Tetons short because of “bad weather and our low morale due to the accident.” He said, “Deciding that things might be more pleasant in the Wind Rivers, we headed down to Cirque of the Towers, where we spent several days climbing some enjoyable routes.” But then, the account reveals the following.

On August 6 we took a rest day and stayed near our camp, which was beneath the two Warrior Peaks. About midafternoon I noticed a lone climber on the snow below the Warrior Couloir. He climbed part-way up the snow to the base of the couloir, then descended and attempted to climb the rock on the north face of Warrior I. (There are only Grade IV, 5.9 routes on this face.) Giving up on this, he descended and disappeared for a while. Later I saw him again ascending the snow and this time he climbed into the Warrior Couloir and soon disappeared from sight.

Around 1630, I heard rockfall from above and looked up just in time to see the solo climber’s body come flying out of the couloir in mid-air at high speed, bounce of a rock buttress below, and slide 100 meters down the snow to come to rest on the talus. Jeff and I quickly grabbed our first aid gear, notified a nearby party of the accident and climbed to the body, arriving about 15 minutes later. The injuries were numerous and severe, including massive head injuries, possible broken neck and back, broken wrist, dislocated hip, etc. There was, of course, no pulse or any possibility of reviving the victim, who was probably dead before he stopped moving.

It took the rest of the day to locate the victim’s partners, who had both been climbing Mt. Mitchell. We found out the victim was not experienced on snow or ice, yet he was attempting to climb a very steep couloir composed of broken snow, ice, and wet rock.

Thoroughly depressed, we cut our climbing trip short and hiked out the next day. The accident was reported to the Sublette County sheriff and the body was helicoptered out on August 8. (Source: Mark Dale)

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