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Fall into Crevasse—Snow Bridge Collapse, Poor Position, Inadequate Protection—No Belay or Fixed Rope, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On June 28 at 1900, Dominic Marshall (25) and Reggie Perrin fell into a crevasse at 13,600 feet while ascending the West Buttress. Perrin is disabled and Marshall was assisting him to walk when the two broke through a bridged crevasse. Marshall held Perrin from the surface while Perrin went in about three feet. They were extricated very quickly by their party. Perrin was unhurt while Marshall experienced a lot of pain to walk. Marshall was sledded into the 14,200 foot ranger station at 2130. Marshall complained of pain in his pelvis and lower back. A thorough exam was conducted by Canadian Rescue Medic John Oaks of the NPS patrol with assistance from Dr. Dunken Gray and Dr. Anthony Osborne of the Unseen Steps party. It was determined that Marshall should be evacuated by helicopter. Marshall’s continued pain left speculation of a potential fracture of the lower pelvis. Marshall was released on June 29 with a torn pelvic cartilage.


John Barry stated the following: “I was part of a rope of six, moving from a camp at about 12,100 feet to the plateau at 14,200 feet. The visibility was good and the weather fair. One of our party, ‘Reggie’ Perrin is disabled—partially paralyzed in the left arm and leg and 75% blind. This means that when moving roped on glaciated terrain, we have to configure the rope so that, whilst everyone is joined in the normal way, Reggie—who needs a shoulder adjacent his arm on all but the easiest ground—has a fellow climber immediately alongside. This I achieve by means of a doubled rope and sling.

“We were rounding a comer about 13,600 feet near the end of a pleasant but uneventful day when the rope tightened. Looking back I saw that Reggie and his helper of the day, Dominic Marshall, had fallen through the path. Marshall was only waist deep;

Perrin was about three feet into a crevasse. I organized a hoist and in ten minutes or so we had pulled them clear.”

If traveling with a person who needs assistance means that normal practices have to be abandoned, then one must be prepared for the consequences—or make adjustments to the procedures. In this case, a fixed line and/or a belay may have compensated for the two climbers being side by side. (Source: Jed Williamson and Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)