American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Darkness, Inadequate Equipment, Failure to Learn Descent Route, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Taylor Peak

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

STRANDED, DARKNESS, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, FAILURE TO LEARN DESCENT ROUTE

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Taylor Peak

On December 12, Markin Fevughack (25) and Holley English (25) became stranded atop Thatchtop Mountain due to darkness after an ascent of Taylor Glacier on Taylor Peak. It took them most of the following day to work their way down Thatchtop and back to the trailhead. Rescue efforts, including the use of helicopter and numerous ground teams, were then terminated. (Source: Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers)

Analysis

Fevughack and English, although accomplished rockclimbers, had less than a year of snow/ice climbing each. This caused them to have an extremely slow ascent of Taylor Glacier, topping out at 1600. Possibly a more significant factor here was that they did not research the descent routes and did not have a map and compass. They had concentrated on finding out all they could about the approach (even the shortcuts) and the route with its alternatives. After they topped out, they thought they could descend Thatchtop but got cliffed out and benighted. (Source: Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers)

(Editor’s Note: According to David Essex, Chief Park Ranger, the STRANDED and OVERDUE missions in Rocky Mountain National Park were high this year. Three such situations, two of which resulted in fatality, involved scramblers on fairly serious peaks.

Also of note in Colorado were the four avalanche fatalities involving skiers, one of whom was snow boarding. A fifth avalanche accident involved a narrow escape when a solo back country skier, Dakars Gowans (44), was carried a hundred meters down a 37 degree slope into some trees. He was able to crawl back to Lindley Flat, where his friends effected a rescue.

During the past 39 years, according to the Denver Post, 107 people have died in Colorado avalanches. Most of these are probably ski related.)

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