American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Protection, Maine, Acadia National Park, Dorr Mountain

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

FALL ON ICE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Maine, Acadia National Park, Dorr Mountain

About 1245 on January 8, Sam Woodward (50), an experienced climber from Surry, was almost at the top of a 70 foot ice route called “The Bulge” when he fell. He does not remember the cause of the fall.

Woodward had placed an ice screw about 30 feet above the start of the route. He then ran out the rope on easier angled ice with no additional protection. Park Ranger Jim Glover is quoted in the Bangor Daily News (January 9, 1995): “When the climber fell, his partner had no chance to hold him. The belayer did a pretty heads-up thing by jumping down ten feet to get tension on the rope, but he was unsuccessful.”

Woodward landed on an ice covered trail at the base of the route. He remained conscious but he had trouble breathing and he had no sensation in his legs. It was later determined that internal bleeding put pressure on his lungs, and that his spinal cord was severed. He will not regain the use of his legs.

First aid was started by other climbers at the scene. Climbers, along with Acadia Park Rangers and members of the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue Group, worked together on the rescue. After the search and rescue group arrived, Woodward was placed on a backboard, put into a sleeping bag and into a litter, and an IV with warm fluids was started. He was also given oxygen.

A helicopter from the Maine National Guard's 112th Medivac Unit arrived at the scene around 1510 and using a cable hoist lifted Woodward into the machine. He was flown to the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and taken immediately into the emergency room. According to Ranger Grover, “Had there been any additional delay, even half an hour, the outcome could have been tragically different. (Bar Harbor Times, January 12, 1995).

Analysis

Woodward was an experienced climber who was known for being safe. He and his partner were wearing helmets and had good equipment. Park Rangers George Leone and Jim Grover, and Woodwards climbing partner, Dwight Lanpher (40), say that Woodward was not doing anything reckless. The climbing was easy and the ice conditions were good with the temperature around 20°. After the fact, it is clear that Woodward did not place adequate protection. (Source: George Hurley)

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