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Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, No Ice Axe Leash System, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Andrews Glacier


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Andrews Glacier

On September 16, Charles Bailey (37) slipped on Andrews Glacier while glissading. He lost his ice ax and was unable to stop himself. He slid hundreds of feet on icy surface before coming to rest into rocks at Andrews Tarn. Bailey received a serious head injury, and was flown out by Rocky Mountain National Park SAR team with St. Anthony’s Flight for Life.


No matter how experienced one is at glissading techniques (as was Bailey), it is always possible to lose control, especially when the snow is icy. Losing the ice ax can make it near impossible to self-arrest. One can roll over onto the belly with feet downhill and attempt to slow and stop by arching the back and pressing toes and elbows into the snow. This may be only partially effective or non-effective if the surface has iced up. The best prevention for this accident would’ve been the use of an ice ax leashing system. Wrist loops alone afford little protection if the slip was sudden and unexpected. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)