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Falling Rock, Momentary Inattentiveness, Washington, Dome Peak

FALLING ROCK, MOMENTARY INATTENTIVENESS

Washington, Dome Peak

On August 8, 1988, Jeff Becker (29) was fatally injured while descending the south ridge of Dome Peak.

We were a party of four, a family outing, having begun the Ptarmigan Traverse at Stehekin nine days earlier. Several technical peaks were climbed along the traverse including Dome Peak on the morning of August 8.

At the time of the accident, we were descending the South Ridge of Dome Peak into the upper Dome Creek drainage. The ridge was heavily timbered with several small cliff bands, but was non-technical (2nd class) and all climbing hardware was in our packs, including hard hats.

At 1700, Jeff had stepped onto a large flat boulder while holding onto a tree branch. The rock gave out from under him and the branch broke causing him to tumble over backwards. During the tumble, the boulder struck Jeff, apparently stunning him since he made no effort to halt his fall. He continued to accelerate and disappeared through the trees, eventually going over a 30 meter cliff and finally stopping about 75–125 vertical meters below his initial fall. He was unconscious, having suffered massive head injuries. Although first aid and eventually CPR were applied, he died an hour later without ever regaining consciousness. We left Jeff’s body and reached a back country ranger at Holden Village three days later. The body was recovered via helicopter on August 11. (Source: David Becker, brother of victim)

Analysis

At the time of the accident, all of the climbing was behind us and we were anticipating a leisurely three days of fishing and trail hiking. If Jeff had been wearing a hard hat, he probably would have lived. But who wears helmets while bush-whacking? The terrain was no more difficult that many fishermen and cross country hikers encounter. The lesson is: do not take your safety for granted, even on non-technical terrain. (Source: David Becker, brother of victim)