American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Avalanche — Alaska, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, University Range

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

AVALANCHE

Alaska, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, University Range

James Haberl (41) from Whistler, BC, Keith Reid, and Graeme Taylor were climbing in the University Range of Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The climbers were dropped off by Ultima Thule Outfitters on April 25 at the 6,000-foot level of a glacier in the University Range. The area had received about one and a half feet of new snow.

On April 28 the climbers left their camp about 0630 and traveled a mile or so to a location where they intended to traverse ridges to gain elevation and summit an unnamed peak. Winds were calm, the temperature was 15° C, and there were clear and sunny skies.

The slope they were on was 20–30-degrees and they were unroped. Haberl was about 30 yards in front of Reid and Taylor at the time of a slab release, just beneath Haberl. Reid and Taylor were able to cling to the ridge and stay out of the slow moving release. The slab was about 30 yards wide at the release point and about a yard deep. The slab gathered speed and poured over a 550–750- yard drop. Haberl traveled with the slab and went out of sight.

Reid and Taylor down-climbed for about two hours and located gloves, a hat and discolored snow Probing attempts at the location of the discolored snow located Haberl. He was under about a yard of snow. Haberl had sustained very extensive head injuries.

Reid and Taylor attempted ground to air communications without success. They activated an emergency locator beacon and waited for air rescue. Ultima Thule Outfitters investigated the ELT and was given State Trooper permission to remove the body from the mountain. (Source: from an Alaska State Trooper report)

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