American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Faulty Use of Crampons—Jumping Crevasse, Oregon, Mount Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

FAULTY USE OF CRAMPONS—JUMPING CREVASSE

Oregon, Mount Hood

On June 11, 1989, while descending from a climb of Mount Hood, a rope team of four Mazamas reached the bergschrund, about 3250 meters. At this time and location, the ’schrund was opened about 60 cm wide and 40 cm high. Snow conditions were reported good, crampons were considered necessary due to the steepness of the terrain. The two climbers injured were recent but not novice climbers.

Bev Sherrer (49) was third on the rope, hesitated momentarily, then jumped the crevasse. Jumping it was apparently the standard method of crossing for most of the parties on the mountain. Her crampons locked her feet into the snow when she landed, and her momentum carried her sideways, twisting her left knee and ankle. Assistant leader Tom Stanwood began first aid and arranged for notification of authorities that help was needed.

The next rope team of the Mazama party came to the crevasse, continuing to jump. The last member, Sharon Birrel (28) jumped also, but when she landed, she “heard a bone break in her leg.” The final two rope teams traversed the crevasse to the west avoiding the jump.

Shortly, a private climb party which had done Leuthold’s Couloir, a nearby route, arrived, notified by radio. Kent Romney, Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) member, was one of the Leuthold party, and carried a radio tuned to the PMR frequency. PMR has established a policy of members carrying radios and advising the PMR controller when they are on the mountain. This policy significantly improved response to the accident.

Both injuries were treated, and the 304 Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron was brought in for evacuation. The accidents happened about 1100. By 1300, Tom Stanwood took the rest of the party down, while the climb leader, Tom Nelson, remained at the scene. Sharon was evacuated about 1730 and Bev about 1800. Sharon required hospital treatment. (Source: Bruce Coorpender, Climbing Committee Chair, Mazamas)

Analysis

Several factors contributed to the accidents. One, jumping is to be avoided if at all possible, particularly while wearing crampons. Crampons improve traction on ice and snow, and allow no slippage if momentum carries the climber past the point planned. Second, though an injury occurred, the practice of jumping the crevasse continued until the second injury. If jumping was the only option, assistance at the landing site, or belay from above could have reduced the chance for injury. (Source: Bruce Coorpender, Climbing Committee Chair, Mazamas)

(Editor's Note: See 1987 ANAM cover for a pictorial account of what crevasse jumping can be like....)

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