WEATHER, FATIGUE, FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE, FALL OR SLIP ON ROCK
Washington, Mixup Peak
On August 18, 1989, Tim Backman (30) and David Newton (36) ascended Mixup Peak in North Cascades National Park. They began the climb in fog from Gun Sight Notch. Off route, the 4th class climb became a 5th class climb. Finally finding the top, they summited at 1330, but unable to see more than 30 meters, soon became lost on the descent and rappelled into a gully on the southwest side of Mixup.
Continuing down the gully to the 1650-meter level, they encountered a seven meter dry waterfall and could not find a rappel anchor. Backman belayed Newton down and then followed, down climbing. Facing into the rock, Backman couldn’t find a foothold and fell over backwards about 2.5 meters. He tumbled down the 45-degree incline for approximately eight meters. His pack and helmet protected him until his right foot slammed into a rock, which broke his ankle.
They spent the night together, and Newton left on August 19 at 0500 to summon help. Park Rangers were contacted and tried to approach Backman from above while teams from Skagit Mountain Rescue and Skagit ESAR tried to approach from below. All had difficulty determining where to search due to rain and fog. Evacuation was finally accomplished by helicopter the following day just before heavy wind and rain entered the area. (Source: Compiled from accounts by Tim Backman and Paul Williams, Seattle Mountain Rescue Council)
Poor visibility was the most important contributing cause. Even equipped with USGS map, route description, compass, and alitmeter, we became lost on our descent. Two things could have been done to prevent the fall. First, just about where I fell there was a good crack that could have been used with chock and sling to aid the step. Second, my partner might have helped my descent from below with his hands and prevented the tumble down the gully. Neither of these thoughts occurred to me at the time. (Source: Tim Backman)