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Falling Ice, Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Ice Cliff

FALLING ICE

Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Ice Cliff

On July 20 Mount Rainier communications received information relating to a 911 call from a climbing party on the Kautz Glacier route. The reporting climber Greg Prothman of Seattle Mountain Rescue called from Camp Hazard (11,300 feet) indicating that a party of three had been hit by falling ice from the Kautz Ice Cliff. One of the climbers, Tim Wentzer, had been seriously injured in the back and was in severe pain. Due to the location of the accident and severity of injuries, an Army Blackhawk was launched with a flight medic and flew directly to Camp Hazard. The medic was lowered to the accident scene and stabilized Wentzer in preparation for a winch raise into the Blackhawk. The Blackhawk flew Wentzer to Harborview trauma center in Seattle for treatment of a fractured C-7 vertebrae, other spinal complications and an injury to the knee.

Analysis

Wentzer's accident occurred in an area aptly called “The Chute” due to the amount of falling rock and ice. “The Chute” is the safest and fastest approach from Camp Hazard to the popular Kautz Glacier route. Rock and ice fall in “The Chute” is inevitable, therefore extreme caution and speed are advised when climbing or descending through this area. Wentzer was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Source: Mike Gauthier, SAR Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)