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Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Oregon, North Sister

LOSS OF CONTROL—VOLUNTARY GLISSADE

Oregon, North Sister

The following accident on May 13, 1989, was reported as follows:

All my information is secondhand. As a result of head injuries, I have no memory of the climb. I belayed my partner onto the glacier. I decided to glissade, lost control, went by my partner “in perfect self-arrest posture, with a two foot plume of snow coming off the ax.” He braced himself in but was pulled off. We tumbled down the glacier about 500 vertical feet (150 meters) and stopped, probably because we snagged a big bulge with the rope.

I would like to commend Andy Van Brocklin (25), my partner, for preparing me for the night on the glacier. He was badly shaken up, it was very late, and it looked to him like I would be dead in 20 minutes anyway. But he probably spent an hour getting me bundled up before he left to notify rescuers. I would also like to thank Jim Munroe, a paramedic with the Oregon Air Life helicopter. Jim climbed about 2000 vertical feet (600 meters) up the glacier the next day, alone and without an ice ax or crampons, to administer first aid. (Source: Gerald Seeley, 34)

Analysis

My partner described our progress during the climb as scraping off slush so our crampons would hold in the snow. It was a warm day. I believe the top layer of the glacier was too weakened by melting to provide adequate purchase for self-arrest. I wasn’t aware that such conditions could exist. A boot-ax belay would probably have stopped my fall, and can be set up in seconds, with practice. (Source: Gerald Seeley)