American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, No Hard Hat, Washington, Whitehorse Mountain

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

FALLING ROCK, NO HARD HAT

Washington, Whitehorse Mountain

This is to report a climbing accident that occurred on Whitehorse Mountain on June 9, 1991.1 was the climb leader. Tony Baird was the injured climber. Other climbers were Andy Doppel and Steve Zsitvay. All of the above climbers are Everett Mountaineers. There was a fifth climber that I allowed to join our party because he was alone on the mountain, and I didn’t want him to climb unroped on the glacier.

Just before noon our party summitted Whitehorse Mountain after an uneventful ascent. Following a lunch break, we began our descent. Since the first part of the descent is on very steep snow, we set up a belay at the summit. We decided that the best descent route was a few feet to the left of our ascent route, in order to avoid a short traverse which was necessary on the ascent in order to get from the snow finger onto the rock summit block. Tony was the first climber to descend. About 30 feet below the summit, while he was on belay, he fell about five feet into a hidden crevasse. He was not injured by this short fall, but was unable to extricate himself. Since he was on belay, two of the other climbers who were on the summit pulled on the belay rope to help him out of the crevasse. In pulling on the rope, one climber accidentally dislodged a rock. Everybody yelled, “Rock!” and Tony saw the rock coming at him. He ducked into the crevasse in an attempt to avoid the rock, but the rock hit him in the back of the head anyway. He was not wearing a helmet, which would have prevented the injury.

From the summit, we all yelled down to Tony to see if he was alright. About one minute passed before he responded. (We determined later that he was temporarily unconscious.) When he finally did come out of the crevasse and responded, we saw the blood. As quickly as possible, Andy descended (on belay) to administer first aid. By the time Andy reached Tony, the bleeding had stopped. Andy bandaged the wound. Tony appeared to be OK, in spite of the bloody head.

After we were off the glacier, we lightened Tony’s pack somewhat to help him descend. We also kept him roped up on some steep snow in case he fell. We made it back to camp without problem. The last few miles back to the trailhead were the hardest for Tony. Physical fatigue from the climb coupled with the head injury made him very clumsy. He fell several times, despite traveling slowly and taking frequent breaks. As soon as we reached the cars, we took him to Everett General Hospital Emergency Room, where his wound was examined and treated. His skull had been slightly chipped, and he required some stitches, but he returned home that night. In subsequent examination, his doctor diagnosed concussion. (Source: Chris Johnson)

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