American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inexperience, Washington, North Cascades National Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989


Washington, North Cascades National Park

On August 11, 1988, Katrina Kretsinger (22) fractured her pelvis in a fall on Bear Mountain. She describes the accident on an AAC Accident Report Form.

We were descending a ridge (a group of 12 from the National Outdoor Leadership School) northwest of Bear Mountain in a couloir of snow. Crossing the narrow couloir, I slipped and failed to self-arrest because the snow was thin (icier than I had anticipated) and my pack was heavy (35 kg), throwing me off balance. I slid about 30 meters on the snow couloir, accelerated, then landed in the boulder strewn moat. I tumbled down another 30 meters over these large boulders before coming to a stop. I could stand—and was relieved to have full motor control. I was bleeding from near my anus, but otherwise I seemed mostly to be suffering from multiple abrasions and lacerations of a superficial nature. I did not know then about the hairline fracture on my pelvis.

Other members of my party belayed down to my location. With their help I was able to walk down over a huge boulder field, about 200 meters, to a relatively flatter (less steep although very rugged) area where we bivvied for the night. I was not in great pain but took one Benadryl to sleep that night. The weather was beautiful (thank God)!

The chopper from St. Luke’s was unable to land, so a Navy chopper from NAS Whidbey finally came out. (Source: Katrina Kretsinger)


The large pack saved my neck and head. (Need) better self-arrest techniques (and) better map reading/orienteering skills. (Source: Katrina Kretsinger)

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