American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip or Fall on Snow, Party Separated, Washington, Mt. Rainier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992


Washington, Mount Rainier

On January 2, 1991, a three person climbing party consisting of Mark Fogarty (26), Phil Buck (26), and Binget Hanson (24) returned to Camp Muir after successfully climbing Mount Rainier via Ingraham Glacier. They planned to descend from Camp Muir on the Muir Snowfield the following day. Fogarty advised the two other members of his party that he was going to go to the western side of the snowfield to find better snow to ski on. As the party left Muir next morning in excellent weather, Fogarty intentionally separated at 1100 to begin a ski descent while the other two continued down on foot. He was not seen again by Buck and Hanson, and they reported his absence to park rangers at Paradise at 1400.

When Fogarty failed to return to Paradise by evening, a search effort was organized. Park rangers and Phil Buck searched throughout the night and found Fogarty’s ski tracks leading to a steep, icy slope at the 9,050 foot level, where they disappeared over a cliff into Nisqually Glacier canyon. The next morning an aerial search was conducted, and Fogarty’s body was discovered on a snow slope at the 8,000 foot level in the canyon. A ranger and a Tacoma Mountain Rescue volunteer were flown to the scene to recover the body. Further inspection of the accident site indicated Fogarty skied to the extreme western side of the snowfield, well outside the normal descent route, where he encountered a steep icy slope which caused him to fall and slide over the cliff. It was later determined he died from a fractured skull. (Source: Compiled from reports by National Park Rangers Rick Yates, John Wilcox, Stephen Winslow, and Rick Kuschner)

(Editors Note: This is a mountaineering accident, and is included in the narrative account to advise of the dangers of attempting to ski technical mountain terrain. Park Ranger Rick Yates in his report also notes the intention of the Park Service to warn visitors of the hazards of backcountry skiing.)

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