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Falling Rock, Off Route, Exceeding Abilities, Washington, Unicorn Peak

FALLING ROCK, OFF ROUTE, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Washington, Unicorn Peak

On July 5, 1988, Andre Genereux fell 150 meters to his death after pulling a rock off the face of Unicorn Peak. The following details came from an interview with his partner, Edwin Murray (24).

Murray and Genereux had been “best friends” for about four years. Both work at the same office of Borg-Warner Automotive Co., in Michigan. Also, both were active rock climbers, having climbed on a few other occasions in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

Two weeks prior to the accident, both Murray and Genereux developed plans to climb in Mount Rainier National Park. Their intention was to rock climb. They arrived at Seatac Airport early on July 2, rented a car, and drove to the Nisqually Entrance. They then drove to Longmire, where they discovered that Mount Rainier was snow and ice covered. Since they were only prepared for warm weather and rock climbing activity, they decided to purchase more equipment. In town they purchased extra clothing for cold weather, drove back to the Park, and hiked about two kilometers from the road and set up camp for the night.

On July 3, they participated in a one-day snow and ice school with RMI. Murray stated that after the school, Genereux was intent on climbing Mount Rainier. Murray said that he and an RMI instructor talked him out of this idea. When asked about an alternate climbing option, the RMI instructor suggested Unicorn Peak.

They went to the Paradise Visitor Center Information Desk and Murray told Ranger Bruce Hawkins that they were interested in a short, easily accessible backcountry campsite. Ranger Hawkins suggested Snow Lake Camp and issued them a backcountry permit for this site. They hiked to Site #1 with the intenion to climb Unicorn Peak.

On July 4 they left their gear in the site and hiked out to purchase more equipment. At that time they felt ill equipped to climb the snow slopes to Unicorn. At the RMI shop at Paradise, they purchased gaiters, water bottles, food, gloves and overmitts, as well as renting ice axes. They then returned to Snow Lake Camp. At 1800 they dismantled their campsite and departed for their climb. They were able to reach just below the base of the peak, but due to impending darkness, decided to descend 150 meters to their bivouac site.

On July 5 at 0900, they departed their bivouac site for the climb. Reaching the 1850 meter elevation, they encountered route finding problems. Murray said that Genereux stated he found an easier route. Immediately after that statement, Murray heard Genereux scream. Murray then turned and looked, watching a one by two meter rock break from the wall. This was the rock that Genereux was attempting to surmount. Murray watched as Genereux and the rock fell, and also observed other comparable sized rocks fall from the same location. As Genereux was falling, Murray saw the primary rock strike him on the head. Murray felt that after the rock struck Genereux, that Genereux was then unconscious. Murray said that he noticed that Genereux was then falling in a limp fashion. Murray then attempted to catch Genereux as he tumbled past him, but missed. Murray also had to dodge the other falling rock. He estimated that Genereux then became airborne for about 25 meters before stopping on a scree slope. Genereux landed face down. Murray went to Genereux and felt for a radial pulse. He found none. He suspected back and neck injuries, and decided not to turn Genereux over to check for respiration. Murray descended for help. The body recovery was completed by 2015, after a difficult lowering and transport. (Source: John Roth, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

Analysis

While Murray described his friend as having a stable emotional state, and as being a giving person with a strong Christian/religious background, he also characterized Genereux as being impulsive and spontaneous. Genereux was intent on climbing Rainier, despite the poor weather, lack of equipment, and no experience on snow and ice. Murray said he had to continually talk Genereux into waiting to climb Unicorn—until they were prepared. (Source: John Roth, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)