American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Exhaustion, Climbing Alone, Inadequate Clothing and Equipment, Washington, Mount Rainier

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


Washington, Mount Rainier

On August 22, 1987, Robert Pearson (57) hitchhiked from his home in Puyallup Paradise. Dressed in smooth-soled boots, cotton pants, wool shirt, and metal hard hat, he carried no other equipment, nor food or water. He left Paradise at 1630, arriving at Camp Muir after dark at 2130. He found an aluminum pole on the icefields to use as a walking staff. The only possession Pearson carried was a Rubic’s Cube. After sleeping in the public shelter, he departed at 0230 for the summit climbing solo without equipment. Although other parties met him along the route, he ignored their advice to descend.

At 0730, Park Ranger Litch descended onto the top of Disappointment Cleaver, where he found Pearson shivering and confused. Gordon Pfister, an old NPS friend of Ranger Litch, had assisted Pearson into down clothing and a sleeping bag at 0700 after finding him shivering and stumbling.

Pearson complained of nausea and was unable to keep down fluids. He had consumed no significant fluids or food since 1600 the previous day. He appeared to be suffering from hypothermia, dehydration, and fatigue. He reported no medical history or medications when questioned.

From 0730 to 0830, Ranger Litch rewarmed and administered a heated sugar solution to Pearson. Ranger Roth was contacted at Paradise by radio and was requested to phone Pearson’s wife so as to inform her of his whereabouts, determine his psychiatric history, and arrange transportation home.

At 0830 Ranger Litch, Pfister, and Halperin departed for Camp Muir with Pearson on a running belay. Frequent stops were made to continue rehydration efforts. The party arrived at Camp Muir at 1030. After a meal and more fluids, Pearson was escorted to Paradise by Pfister, where he was interviewed by Ranger Roth. Pearson was driven home from Paradise by his wife. (Source: Park Ranger J. Litch, Mount Rainier National Park)

Editor’s Note: This does not go into our data base. It is presented here so that should climbers come across any individuals with symptoms like these, perhaps the care which Litch and Pfister rendered will be remembered.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.