American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall/Slip on Ice, Unable to Self-Arrest, No Hard Hat, Oregon, Mount Hood, Southside Route

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

FALL/SLIP ON ICE, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, NO HARD HAT

Oregon, Mount Hood, Southside Route

On January 17, 1994, Kurt Pothast (20), Mike Bell (19), David Pardue (30), Tim Park (17), and Ron Hatfield (17) were climbing Southside Route on Mount Hood. It was a very icy day. Warm days and cold nights caused water ice to form. Half of the group had reached Carter Rock when Tim Park tried to get cover from the wind behind a rock and lost footing and started sliding toward the WY East headwall. David Pardue tried to grab him and was thrown down and tried to self-arrest, but because of the hard ice the pick only went in 1/4 inch and moderately slowed him down.

Both Park and Pardue slid over 1,000 vertical feet to a runout area above White River headwall. Kurt Pothast and Ron Hatfield then left down the ridgeline to below where Park and Pardue were where it was safe to travel onto the runout area above the White River headwall. On the way down Mike Bell joined the party. Pothast was the first to reach the critically injured Park, who had multiple facial and scalp lacerations and unknown internal injuries. Pardue was only suffering from a cut head and was very sore. Bell was second on scene because of a fall on the “safe” slope which resulted in his having to be extricated by helicopter because of a severely sprained ankle.

Through hand signals from ridge to ridge, Pothast communicated to other members of the party that there were two injured and they needed medical attention. When Bell arrived he said he fell, but was all right. Both Bell and Pothast, who is an Oregon EMT, got Park into a bivvy sack, and with the help of Ron Hatfield, held Park down, for he was trying to thrash about and get up. This lasted until Park, Pardue, and Bell were evacuated by the 304th Air Rescue Division.

Analysis

The total size of this group was 15 people. It should definitely have been smaller, and helmets should have been put on at a lower elevation.

The possibility of roping up was discussed and thrown out because of the fact that there was no way to stop on the ice, so instead of two injuries, there could have been three or four. The only other comment I have is that when a terrible accident happens, especially to a large group of people, it is important to be debriefed by trained personnel. We all did and it helped the recovery process incredibly. (Source: Kurt Pothast) (Editor’s Note: This was one of several “unable to self-arrest” situations on Mount Hood. In this case, it was because of icy conditions. In other cases, it was because of inexperience. One of the falls was caused by soft snow balling up in crampons. For other examples, read on.)

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