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Rappel Anchor Failure, Inadequate Protection, Fall on Rock, Washington, Mount Thompson


Washington, Mount Thompson

On September 17, John Cain and Dale Ramquist climbed Mount Thompson via the West Ridge. Instead of going down the East Ridge, the normal descent route, they opted to descend by rappelling their ascent route. They reportedly had a disagreement about the quality of their first rappel anchor, and, over Cain’s objections, Ramquist proceeded to rappel. The anchor apparently failed as soon as he loaded it, precipitating a fall down the northwest corner and out of sight of Cain, taking both ropes in the process. Cain hiked out for help, presuming Ramquist had been killed in the fall.

Seattle Mountain Rescue personnel (first five, then three more) and Guardian I responded to the scene. At 0830 on the 18th, Ramquist was spotted by Guardian I. He waved. MAST’s Blackhawk helicopter arrived and the victim was extricated.

It was later learned that Ramquist’s injuries were minor, including a cut on his left leg and lots of bruising. In fact, he was ambulatory, in spite of an estimated 50 to 60 foot fall.


Single point rappel anchors need to be bombproof. The type of anchor these two had set up is not known, other than the fact that it was not adequate. (Source: Bergtrage, Number 148, December 1996)

(Editor’s Note: Reports were not submitted in time for publication from the key areas in Washington—Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks. They will be included next year.)