American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Belay, No Protection, Inexperience, California, Mount Shasta

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988



California, Mount Shasta

On March 29, 1987, John Hart (38), Richard Bennett (41), and Jean Pitney (38) were on a roped ascent of the Hotlum–Bolam Glacier at the 3450 meter level when the leader, Hart, lost his footing. They were on ice and fell 75 meters to snow. Hart and Bennett suffered broken pelvises. Pitney broke two ribs, but used a screwdriver in place of her lost ice ax to descend to a base camp at the 2500 meter level and fetch sleeping bags and other gear for the injured men.

Bennett, meanwhile, used a snow shovel to make a splint for Hart’s leg, then slid him into a bivouac sack. He then managed to propel Hart and himself about 150 meters down the icy face until night fell and they huddled for warmth.

About 2000 they spotted a light, which turned out to be carried by Pitney, who was bringing the tents and other gear back up to them. Because of the darkness, the men insisted that she not try to cover the last 50 meters and she set up her own camp below them.

At daybreak, Pitney left the survival gear with the men and began trekking down the mountain. By 1400 she reached a road and flagged down a truck driver who drove her to a phone booth.

Pitney directed a helicopter loaded with medical personnel and rescue workers back to the scene. Two rescuers were left on the mountain with the injured men as nightfall again approached. They were taken down from the mountain on March 31. (Source: From a report by Phil Umholtz, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, and the Rocky Mountain News, April 2, 1987)


The inexperienced person (Pitney)took out the piece of protection placed by Hart just before the fall. But she was able to perform under pressure to help the leader and her fiance. (Source: J. Williamson)

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