American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Unroped, Party Separated, California, Mount Shasta

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

FALL ON ICE, CLIMBING UNROPED, PARTY SEPARATED

California, Mount Shasta

On Saturday, October 10, 1987, Mike Zamzow (22), Steve Jenevein (18), and I (30) set out to climb Mount Shasta via the Hotlum–Bolam Glacier route. We got a late start, not actually getting onto the mountain until nearly 1100. By the time we were halfway up we began to separate with Zamzow taking the lead, me in the middle, and Jenevein in the rear. We tried to stay within voice range of one another but shortly both distance and wind noise made that impossible. We continued up and by the time I had reached 3900 meters, Zamzow was probably 150 meters in vertical distance above me and Jenevein probably a comparable distance below me. At this point I knew I did not have the energy to continue so I rested. Zamzow was also resting at this point. Jenevein joined me shortly and also indicated that he could not continue. We attempted to signal this to Zamzow who seemed to acknowledge this but also indicated that he was going to continue. Zamzow began climbing again, this time using two axes due to the steepness of the wall. He reached the crest of the glacier, and shortly indicated that he was going to descend. It did not seem that Zamzow took more than several steps before he slipped or his footing gave way. Almost immediately he lost both axes and I realized he could not self-arrest. Mike began to slide and tumble down the ice wall. I moved out toward the center of the glacier in the hope of intercepting him, but he came to rest about 60 vertical meters above me. I yelled to Jenevein to grab the first-aid kit and follow me, and I quickly made my way to Zamzow. When I reached him, I discovered that he was dead. I yelled to Jenevein to stay back and told him Zamzow was dead. We descended by a different route that got us off the glacier quickly so as to get off the ice by dark. (The fall had occurred at 1545.) Once darkness came on, we got lost and came out at a different trailhead, but were found by a Siskiyou CountysSheriff. Zamzow’s body was retrieved by helicopter the next afternoon. (Source: John Page)

Analysis

I believe that our biggest mistake was not staying closer together. The fact that there had been a fatality on the same route earlier in the week should have made us more cautious. With the late season ice on that route we would have been wiser to rope up and protect the final section. We had all the equipment we would have needed to do so. If we had been closer we might have collectively made the decision to turn back before reaching that section. We were not wearing helmets and I do not know if wearing them would have made a difference or not. (Source: John Page)

Editor’s Note: The fatality which Page refers to occurred on a moonlight hike when a hiker and his girlfriend got themselves into a climbing situation on the glacier. This mountain has a number of nonclimber accidents.

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