AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, No Hard Hat, Too Much Weight in Pack, Washington, Mount Stewart


Washington, Mount Stewart

On August 4, 1991, Brian Blair (27), Paul Werner (25), Brad Berdoy (32) and I (Bert Daniels, 50+) climbed the North Ridge of Mount Stewart. During the descent, we got to the first snowfield on the Cascadian Couloir. Even though the snowfield was steep and there were several bands of rocks below, I decided to try to glissade a short way, assuming I could stop myself if I was sliding too fast. I tried to self-arrest (using a 45 cm ice ax), and turned the wrong way—away from the head of the ax. I did not lose control of the ax, however. I had the pick in the snow and I tried to arc my body to stop myself. My pack was too heavy, and I was not able to turn all the way over. If I had turned my body the correct way to stop myself, the momentum probably would have allowed me to turn all the way over for proper self-arrest. I kept going faster and faster, and knowing I was in trouble, I shouted, “Oh no!’ I tried to position my body so my pack would absorb most of the impact, and then I blacked out.

I regained consciousness a short time later. Brad Berdoy was trying to stop the bleeding, and cursing me for getting injured. After I realized what had happened, I kept pressure on my scalp lacerations to stop the bleeding. Brad and Paul went for help a short time later. Soon my bleeding stopped, and I drank a lot of water and ate some food. I lost quite a bit of blood during the fall, during which I went through three rock bands before stopping. A helicopter showed up around 1700. The accident had taken place around 0800. (Source: Bert Daniels)


Although the victim had misjudged the steepness of the slope during his glissade, a proper self-arrest would have prevented him from gaining speed so quickly. It is important that rolling onto the head of the ice ax be instinctual. Also, the leverage needed to arrest is difficult to attain with such a short ax shaft (45 cm). The weight of the pack prevented a proper arrest. Lastly, the head lacerations would have been prevented by wearing a helmet. (Source: Dean Engle)