American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Unable to Self Arrest, Exceeding Abilities — Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Moran

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2000

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF ARREST, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Moran

Joseph Boots Allen, Justin Watsabaugh and Micha Thompson left a camp in a snow cave near the base of the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran (12,605 feet) on June 20 at 0230. They climbed the glacier at night and reached the summit some time between 0530 and 0630. About 0700 the three began a ski descent of the Skillet Glacier. Allen was the last to descend and as he neared the bottom of the “handle” on the skillet, he fell. This was 500 to 1,000 feet below the summit. He attributes this to hitting some ice or slush on the surface of the snow, which caused him to lose control of his skis. Allen attempted to perform a self arrest with his ice ax, but this was unsuccessful. He slid into a runnel and then down the length of the glacier. In the process he slid over a rock outcropping known as “Rock Island” and then came to rest in avalanche debris. Allen fell a distance of 2,000 to 2,500 feet before stopping. His companions descended to his location and then provided medical care before moving him from the avalanche hazard. Watsabaugh descended to report the accident while Thompson stayed with the patient.

Analysis

Allen was admitted to Saint John’s Hospital in Jackson with a dislocated hip and numerous abrasions. He had first skied at the age of three, but admitted that this was more difficult than anything he had attempted. The skiing party started very early in the morning to avoid any avalanche hazard. Allen was wearing a helmet, which probably saved him from serious injury or death. Allen’s companions took appropriate actions to treat his injuries and remove him from the avalanche danger. These factors combined to reduce the severity of this accident. (Source: Rick Perch, SAR Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: As reported in previous editions of ANAM, the Skillet Glacier has seen many accidents, especially on descents.)

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