American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow—Crampon Caught in Clothing, Unable to Self-Arrest, Washington, Mount Stuart

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

FALL ON SNOW—CRAMPON CAUGHT IN CLOTHING, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST

Washington, Mount Stuart

On July 16, Teresa Soucie (41)—a member of the King County Search and Rescue Team—was beginning her descent of the Cascadian Couloir on Mount Stuart when she tripped after apparently catching her crampon on a piece of clothing. She slid 300 feet into a rock pile, resulting in a broken rib and bruised pelvis.

Analysis

“It’s a very attractive climb. It's a very beautiful mountain and it’s attractive from a distance... and the approach from the south side is relatively short,” said Ellensburg resident Fred Stanley (51), who along with famed Seattle climber Jim Wickwire pioneered the first ascent of a wall known as the Great Gendarme on Mount Stuart in 1964.

The 1979 publication of “Fifty Classic Climbs,” which includes a Mount Stuart route, helped further popularize the mountain, he said. Stanley said most accidents occur on the south side for several reasons. As the easier way up, the south side attracts less experienced climbers. It is also used as a return route by experienced climbers who make more difficult ascents elsewhere on the mountain. In both cases, climbers can be tired. The combination of steep snow slopes and tired climbers can mean trouble, he said.

The south slope isn’t steep enough to generally require ropes, although at 35 to 40 degrees, it's plenty steep enough to trigger uncontrolled slides. Some climbers have called it deceptive.

Fred Dunham, a 55-year-old Ellensburg resident who has lost track of how many times he’s climbed Mount Stuart since his first ascent 35 years ago, isn’t comfortable with that description.

“I would shy away from calling it deceptive,” he said. “I say it’s the way it is in the mountains.” (Source: Yakima Herald, from an article by Craig Torianello, July 23, 1995)

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