American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall Into Crevasse, Yukon Territory, St. Elias Mountains

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993


Yukon Territory, St. Elias Mountains

On June 13, 1992, a group of five climbers and two guides were ascending an unnamed 3600 meter mountain east of McArthur Peak. At 0500 at the 2700 meter level, a series of large crevasses were encountered. After checking the route, the guides considered that a fixed line and a belay from the uphill side would adequately protect the group while they crossed. As the first two climbers were being belayed, one of the crevasse bridges collapsed and they both fell into it. While one guide held them on belay, the other went to the edge of the crevasse to check on the two who fell. P. S. was suspended by a rope about eight meters above the bottom of the crevasse, while R. V. was in a semi-sitting position on the crevasse floor, moaning and complaining that his right leg was broken. The other three climbers, downhill of the crevasses, were essentially OK, although P. W. had been knocked around by falling blocks.

P. S. was belayed out of the crevasse and, with two other clients, descended back to their high camp to make the 0800 radio schedule and report the accident. Guide J. B. rappelled into the crevasse to attend to R. V., and discovered fractures of the tibia and fibula of his right leg. Demerol was administered to relieve the extreme pain. By 0700 the leg was splinted, and by 0800 R. V. had been raised out of the crevasse. The clients returned to the accident site by 0900 with evacuation equipment, and R. V. was back in camp by 1200.

About 1400, Kluane National Park Wardens arrived by helicopter to transport R. V. and P. W. (who had sustained a head injury during the event) back to the Haines Junction nursing station.


This accident was mostly the result of a bit of bad luck in uncertain conditions. The guides recognized the dangers and made a reasonable attempt to prevent such a mishap. The group was also fully prepared for self-rescue, resulting in a fairly straightforward evacuation of its injured members. (Source: Andrew Lawrence, Kluane National Park Warden Service)

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