American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Alone and Unroped, Weather, New Hampshire, Willey Slide

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

FALL ON ICE, CLIMBING ALONE AND UNROPED, WEATHER New Hampshire, Willey Slide

On November 17, 1987, Brian Donleavy (20) was found near the base of Willey Slide by members of the New Hampshire Mountain Rescue Service. He had been reported missing by friends from the Dartmouth Outing Club. He had apparently fallen about 150 to 200 meters, either because he was hit by a chunk of ice or because he came out of his holds. (Source: New Hampshire Mountain Rescue Service)

Analysis

There are some points worth mentioning beyond the obvious factors of climbing alone in temperatures well above freezing and early in the ice-climbing season. This young man, who was President of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club, was eager, intelligent, and brash. He wanted to get good at climbing fast. He was admired for his ability by fellow students, yet there was concern for his judgment expressed by some. He had broken his arm a year earlier and his leg during the summer prior to his death, both in rock-climbing situations. On the day of his fatal climb, his zest and enthusiasm clouded his judgment. Only his peers might have persuaded him not to attempt the climb, but they would have (1) had to know what he was setting out to do, and (2) have been as strong-willed as,or stronger-willed than, Donleavy to have convinced him. (Source:J. Williamson)

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