American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow — Unable to Self Arrest, Party Separated, Exceeding Abilities — California, Mount Shasta, Hotlum/Bolum Ridge

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  • Publication Year: 2000

FALL ON HARD SNOW - UNABLE TO SELF ARREST, PARTY SEPARATED, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

California, Mount Shasta, Hotlum/Bolum Ridge

On September 12, a team of four climbers was descending the Hotlum/Bolum Ridge. Two of the team went ahead to scout the descent route. One member, Rene “Red” Arnold Cuestas (32), did not return. After waiting an hour, the three remaining team members continued to descend. When they returned to basecamp, Cuestas was not there, so they contacted USFS rangers. During the ensuing search, a California Division of Forestry and Fire helicopter crew spotted Cuestas’ body at 12,000 feet. He appeared to have slipped on the ice and fallen two to three hundred feet over ice and rock. He was wearing crampons and had an ice ax girth hitched to his wrist.

Analysis

Cuestas was a novice climber. The route he was on is not technically difficult when snow conditions are good. However, the route generally becomes quite icy in the fall, making it very challenging. The party continued to climb, even though they were frightened by the conditions on the ascent. Separating on the descent may have contributed to the incident. (Source: Dan Towner, Wilderness Ranger, and Bob Musgrove)

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