American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Placed no Protection, California, Mount Shasta

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991


California, Mount Shasta

In July, a party of four climbers attempted the Hotlum Glacier route on Mount Shasta. Parts of this route are covered in hard ice on which self-arrest is difficult. The climbers traveled in two two-man roped teams, and used ice axes and crampons. While traveling over a section of hard ice, one member of rope team #1 fell and took his rope-mate with him. Both suffered injuries to the lower legs from crampon points. Later, one member of rope team #2 fell and slid, pulling his rope-mate after him. During their 300 meter slide, one of the victims hooked a crampon point on the ice, injuring his ankle and causing him to tumble. The pair stopped around 3200 meters by dragging their knees and elbows against the ice. The injured victim was unable to travel and spent the night alone on the glacier, suffering frostbite to the injured foot. He was evacuated by Siskiyou County SAR the following morning. (Source: Tom Grossman, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit)


The ice on the Hotlum Glacier is often hard enough to make self-arrest extremely difficult; this means that simultaneous roped travel does not significantly increase (and in fact may decrease) the safety of the climbing party. In each of these two incidents, the main effect of the rope was to convert a one-person accident into a two-person accident.

The common technique of simultaneous roped travel is of great value when traveling over crevassed glaciers where self-arrest is reliable. However, climbers traveling over snow or ice should keep in mind that they have many alternatives, and the “standard” technique of simultaneous roped travel may not be the best under all circumstances. Depending on conditions and skill level, climbers can (besides doing simultaneous roped climbing: (1) climb unroped, (2) use a static belay, (3) use a running belay or (4) change their plans! (Source: Tom Grossman, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit)

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