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Fall or Slip on Rock, Failure to Follow Route, Washington, Mount Thompson


Washington, Mount Thompson

On October 15, 1983, Edward Henderson (47), Johanna Backus (45), Sherman Ackley (46), and Roger Ehret (52) set out to climb the West Ridge of Mount Thompson. Although the weather was clear, the route was covered with ice.

Rather than give up our objective, we decided to traverse to the third class, East Ridge route. Once on the route, we dropped our climbing gear, taking only one rope. Although the route was covered with snow and ice, we made a fast ascent as our time was running late.

About 30 meters from the summit, Henderson, slightly off route, slipped while scrambling fourth class rock. He fell backwards six meters, coming to rest against a dead stump. He sustained a compound fracture of the right raidus and ulna.

As we were in a precarious position, Ehret immediately tied in and set up a belay for the other party members. The victim was belayed down icy rock about 30 meters to a safer position. Backus, an R.N., stabilized and splinted the victim. We scrambled back to base camp and hiked out. (Source: Roger Ehret)


We knew the rock was icy when we aborted the fifth class route. We were all aware there had been a fatal accident two weeks before in the same spot where Henderson fell. However, we had “summit fever” and had climbed together as a team several times. As time was running late, we were moving fast and got off route. We should have used more caution because of the icy conditions and set up belays. We were very fortunate. Henderson’s injuries could have been much worse. None of us was wearing helmets. As we were experienced in mountain rescue, once we roped up, the rescue went smoothly. As we all reflected later, icy third class rock is not “a piece of cake.” (Source: Roger Ehret)