American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall into Crevasse, Glissading Instead of Walking, Unroped, Washington, Mount Rainier, Inter Glacier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

FALL INTO CREVASSE, GLISSADING INSTEAD OF WALKING, UNROPED

Washington, Mount Rainier, Inter Glacier

On August 3, Chris Kapaun was glissading unroped down the Inter Glacier and fell into a crevasse. His partner, Troy Hendrickson witnessed the fall and climbed back to Camp Schurman to report the accident. Rangers Puryear, Kellogg, M. Ronca and C. Ronca responded from the Camp Schurman ranger station with rescue litter and gear. Ranger M. Ronca descended into the crevasse and assessed Kapaun's injuries which included a compound fracture of the arm and possible head injuries. Kapaun had fallen 50 to 70 feet and was not wearing a helmet. With the assistance of other climbers, Kapaun was raised from the crevasse and packaged in a rescue litter. Rangers Gauthier and Olver climbed to the site and began the lowering to meet other ground teams which were assembling in Glacier Basin for a cany out. At the base on the Inter Glacier, Kapaun's injuries were reassessed, and it was determined that he could walk out on his own with the aid of rangers.

Analysis

The Inter Glacier is the primary route for climbers and skiers attempting Mount Rainier's Emmons Glacier. Although the glacier is small by comparison, it still has many large crevasses and icy sections which necessitate one or two rescues every year. It is strongly recommended that climbers (especially those new to the area) rope up during all glacier travel, even on the Inter.

Glissading is a popular descent technique. However glacier conditions change weekly and old glissade paths frequently lead to newly exposed crevasses. Kapaun did not check his descent path and was unable to see what was ahead of him while sliding. Although the path may have been crevasse-free the week before, that was no longer the case. We strongly recommend that climbers hike down the Inter glacier, or at least check their descent path. (Source: Mike Gauthier, SAR Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

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