FALL ON ROCK, PLACED NO PROTECTION, WEATHER, NO HARD HAT
Washington, Northeast Cascades
On July 5,1986, Dan Ferguson (31), Jeffrey Skinner (30), and Kevin Wood (30) set out for an ascent of Bonanza Peak from the Mary Green Glacier, which is a Class Three rock climb over primarily down sloping slabs. The rock is very broken and does not hold protection. On the night before our attempt, a light snow fell, coating the rock with a thick layer of snow and ice. About 80 meters above the glacier on the headwall, Dan fell. Dan was leading at the time. We assume he slipped on some ice covered slab rock. Jeff was next on the rope, about 14 meters below. Jeff arrested Dan’s fall with a dynamic belay after a fall of approximately 30 meters.
Dan came to a stop approximately 18 meters below the ledge where Kevin and Jeff were standing. Dan was hanging head down. Kevin and Jeff were greatly relieved to hear Dan moaning, as they were afraid he was dead. A party from Seattle Moutaineers was behind us and witnessed the fall. A member of their party was belayed down to where Dan was to check on his condition. Meanwhile, two other members of their party starteddown the mountain to go for help. It was reported up to us that Dan had suffered a serious head injury and was having difficulty with his right arm and shoulder. Jeff and Kevin were concerned that Dan could have a shoulder separation with a broken arm. After bandaging Dan’s head wound, he was helped to climb up and over to where the Seattle Mountaineers party was. There he was anchored in. After Dan was taken off our rope, Kevin and Jeff climbed over to where he was. Together with the remaining two members of the Seattle Mountaineers party, we discussed what should be done next. It was decided that we should try to work Dan down the mountain to the Mary Green Glacier some 80 meters below. We felt that if help did come that night, they would only be able to take Dan out if he was down off the rock. It was also just as important that Kevin and Jeff be doing something rather than just sitting helplessly.
Dan was first placed in a bivy bag to help keep him warm, then Jeffs 50 meter rope was configured such that Kevin and Jeff could be lowered alongside Dan. Although Dan was incoherent, he was conscious and able to assist in his rescue by pushing off the rocks with his hands and feet. It should be noted that his ability to contribute to our efforts was a major factor in our success. It was a very difficult finding belay positions in the badly broken and fragmented rock. It took nearly seven hours to move Dan down to the glacier below. Once on the glacier, Dan was put in dry clothes. Just as we were finishing, a helicopter was noticed coming up the valley toward us. The helicopter pilot landed in a very precarious position on the glacier and said he could only stay a few minutes due to fuel considerations. We quickly loaded Dan onto a sled which they supplied and slid him up along the edge of a crevasse to where the helicopter lifted off. (Source: From a report submitted by Dan Ferguson)
The conditions of Bonanza Peak on the day of our attempt were very poor and not conducive for climbing. Several other parties had come to make the attempt also. All but one other party turned back due to the conditions. The other party attempting the climb stopped and aided us in bringing Dan down off the peak after the accident. The climb should not have been attempted under the conditions.
For greater safety and ease on the descent or a possible rescue, two nine millimeter ropes should be used. This would have been very helpful on Bonanza because of the distance between suitable rappel anchors.
And, finally, the members agreed they would never attempt another alpine ascent without helmets. (Source: From reports submitted by Dan Ferguson and the Boeing Employees Alpine Society Bulletin, August 1986)