American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Ice Fall, Washington, Mount Shuksan, Hanging Glacier

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

ICE FALL

Washington, Mount Shuksan, Hanging Glacier

On August 21, 1991, two experienced climbers—Curt Veldhuisen (29) and Gary Gray (33)—signed out at the USFS Ranger Station and proceeded to their base camp in the White Salmon drainage below Mount Shuksan. The next morning they were climbing the NW arret and stopped where the rock route meets the hanging glacier. While they were stopped to put on crampons at 1330, they noticed some small avalanche activity. Without warning, a large section of iced up glacier broke off and swept down upon the two climbers, trapped in the moat between the wall and the glacier. Curt was knocked unconscious and Gary was immediately buried in an ice fall under chunks the size of wood stoves. When Curt regained consciousness, he determined his injuries and searched for Gary. He set up some bright gear to try to attract help. He attempted to descend by himself, but returned due to crevasse problems and the extent of his injuries.

As the victims were overdue, a search was initiated. A North Cascade National Park helicopter flew the route and located Curt. A radio was lowered to him and the extent of the situation determined. Curt was later that day flown off in a basket by the NCNP helicopter. Rescue teams returned at first light the following day to the scene to attempt to recover Gary’s body. An anchor station above the avalanche area was established and two rescuers were lowered to the scene. It was determined to be a very hazardous area to continue search activities. No trace of Gary was evident within the jumble of ice blocks. The search was suspended

Analysis

Possible judgment error in route selection due to warm temperatures and lateness in day (1330). An approach between an icefall could more safely be made in colder conditions. (Source: Harte Bressler, Base Operations Leader, Bellingham Mountain Rescue)

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