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Slip on Ice, No Hard Hat, Washington, Mount Baker

SLIP ON ICE, NO HARD HAT

Washington, Mount Baker

While descending Mount baker around 2000 meters via Coleman-Deming Glacier on September 9, Steven Amber (27), Vincent Willard (25) and Reese White (29) approached the last slope directly above their tent site on the Hogback at 1700 after a successful climb. White was leading a roped descent, Amber in the middle, and Willard last. As they entered a crevassed area, Steven Amber slipped and fell. Willard turned into the ice and went into self-arrest position. As he swung his pick into the slope, the ice fractured away, and he too was pulled off his feet. His wrist loop was not around his wrist, and he immediately lost his ice ax. The two rolled a few meters and fell into a crevasse. Willard was knocked unconscious; Amber’s fall was arrested before hitting bottom, and he was able to climb out unassisted.

Reese White immediately rappelled down and began treating Willard’s head wound. Three other climbers in the camp below had witnessed the fall and climbed up to aid the injured party. Two of them stayed the night with White and Willard while the third member escorted Amber back to the camp. Authorities were notified of the accident. Willard and Amber were evacuated by helicopter the following morning at 0730 and treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham. Willard suffered a fractured skull and ankle and compression fracture of the spine, Amber a fractured wrist and broken nose. (Source: Compiled from reports by Steve Amber, Vincent Willard, and Whatcom County Sheriff s Office)

Analysis

In late season ice conditions, it would be advisable to take an easier route. We could have gone around the ice entirely. It would have taken an hour longer, but the accident wouldn’t have happened. We talked to two other climbers the day before, and they had gone around the ice on their descent. We also had two ice screws along, but to save time didn’t use them. A helmet would have spared me my head injury. Sharper crampons and ice ax might have helped, too. P.S. Does this mean we get a free copy of 1990 Accidents in North American Mountaineering? (Source: Steven Amber and Vincent Willard)

(Editor’s Note: Falling into a crevasse is not the recommended method of attempting to secure a copy of ANAM. Membership in the American Alpine Club is the best way to avoid the retail price.)