AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Rappel Anchor Failure, Fall on Rock, Washington, Mount Thompson, West Ridge


Washington, Mount Thompson, West Ridge

On September 17, two climbers had completed an ascent of Mount Thompson via the West Ridge and decided to rappel down the route instead of down-climbing the adjacent East Ridge (Class 3). The victim established the rappel line using a chockstone as an anchor. The partner stated that the anchor looked suspect and chose not to rappel from it. The victim began a rappel and the chockstone failed. The victim fell about 200 feet, landing in a gully. The victim spent the night out while the partner went for help. The victim suffered fractures of the skull, vertebrae and pelvis, as well as acute hypothermia. (Source: Michael Mixon, Tacoma Mountain Rescue Unit)

(Editor’s Note: Michael Mixon was not able to get ages, gender, and names of these climbers. Obviously the victim's partner chose the wiser course of letting the one who set the anchor go first. But there are some questions going begging here...

Some 1996 data came in, but is still incomplete. One report from May of 1996 involved eleven Seattle Mountaineers being avalanched on Red Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass. Nine of them were swept down a gully or over rock, falling as much as 100 feet. Nine were injured, two of them, including the leader, severely. The group had assessed the route for avalanche danger, but the soft snow travelled over the rock band they were on and caught them.

Of the several accidents included in the Washington data but not reported in the narratives, a few were in what can be called the “classic” category. These include crampons catching on pant legs while descending; at least five unbelayed novices, most on organized outings, unable to self-arrest; a stranded couple who simply needed to be re-directed to a walk-off route; a simple slip of less than two feet while descending a hand-line, resulting in a fractured ankle and an all-night rescue in the rain; two solo fatalities, one hiker and one climber, details unknown; and a “hand hold came off, ” resulting in a sixty foot fall. There were at least six other cases like the latter reported from other states this year.)