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Slip on Snow, Climbing Unroped, Failure to Follow Instruction, Washington, Mount Adams

SLIP ON SNOW, CLIMBING UNROPED, FAILURE TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTION

Washington, Mount Adams

On August 4, 1990, at 0500, a party of three was climbing a moderate slope in stable snow above a crevasse about 3000 meters on Mount Adams’ Mazama Glacier. The weather was fair, light winds, low 30 degree temperature. Lee Kelly (58), the leader, and Bonnie Bronson (50) were experienced climbers, though the level of the third member, Mark Stevenson (41) was not known. It was the judgment of Kelly to climb unroped as the slope was approximately 30 degrees and snow conditions were excellent. For reasons unknown, Stevenson suddenly sat down in the snow and started sliding. Bronson stepped out and attempted to stop his fall but was knocked down and slid with Stevenson into the crevasse. In the uncontrolled fall, he landed on top of her. Bronson died instantly of a broken neck. Stevenson sustained a dislocated shoulder. Evacuation was accomplished at 1700 by the combined efforts of three different area mountain rescue units and two Chinook helicopters from Fort Lewis. (Source: Compiled from reports by Lee Kelly, Central Washington Mountain Rescue, and Yakima County Sheriff s Office)

Analysis

Stevenson sat down unexpectedly, contrary to instructions, and as he began to slide he made no attempt at self-arrest. Though experienced, Bronson tried to stop him without self-arrest. I should have been more alert to the mental condition of Stevenson. (Source: Lee Kelly)

(Editor’s Note: We don’t know whether these climbers knew each other. In any case, the victim either didn’t understand or follow instructions. Also, any assumption— rather than knowledge—of levels of competence can lead to complications.)