American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, Wyoming, Tetons

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

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST

Wyoming, Tetons

On July 6, 1989, Ralph Trover (40) and Joe Kelsey (50), Exum Mountain Guides, successfully took clients Tamara Martin and Wesley Jones up the Grand Teton. At 1800, the four were descending the steep snowfield on the Lower Saddle headwall. Kelsey was going first down the snow, followed by Jones, then Martin, with Trover last. The snow was soft. The entire party was roped, with short sections of rope separating each climber.

Martin fell and was unable to self-arrest using her ice ax. The momentum of her fall jerked the other members of the rope team off their stances. Despite the experience of the guides, no members of the party were able to stop the simultaneous slide of the rope team members. All slid a hundred meters down the snowfield until the angle of the snow diminished where the snowfield intersects the Middle Teton Glacier. Kelsey sustained a fracture/dislocation of the left ankle in the fall, Trover was uninjured, and Martin and Jones received slight abrasions. Trover ran out to the trailhead to report the accident, and a helicopter evacuation was completed that evening. (Source: Peter Armington)

Analysis

We are again reminded of how quickly speed, and thus force, can build up in an uncontrolled glissade. The experienced leaders, even though properly positioned, could not arrest the fall. The soft snow conditions probably contributed to this. (Source: J. Williamson)

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