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Loss of Control—Voluntary Glissade, Fall on Snow, Hit and Dragged by Falling Climber, Inexperience, Misperception, Washington, Silver/Tinkham Peaks

LOSS OF CONTROL-VOLUNTARY GLISSADE, FALL ON SNOW, HIT AND DRAGGED BY FALLING CLIMBER, INEXPERIENCE, MISPERCEPTION

Washington, Silver/Tinkham Peaks

On June 8, Joe Myers (40), Jacob Engelstein (40), and Phil Loe (58) were attempting to climb Tinkham Peak, an easy, non-technical climb. The route was snow-covered above 4,400 feet. Owing to poor visibility, the climb was aborted at 4,900 feet. The party descended to just above 4,400 feet, where Myers glissaded only a few feet when he discovered an ice crust below an inch or two of snow. He attempted to arrest, but struck a tree. A few seconds later, Engelstein fell and struck Loe. Losing his ice ax on 45-degree snow, Engelstein panicked and seized Loe’s right foot with both hands. Loe, now sliding head-first on his back—still gripped by Engelstein—struck a tree. Both came to an abrupt stop. Aid was summoned by cell phone. A 10-hour litter carry ensued.

Loe was diagnosed with a comminuted fracture of the distal femur. Myers sustained a fractured rib.

Analysis

Engelstein and Myers were inexperienced, having been instructed in ice ax use just two months earlier. Although beginning climbers may appear to be strong and able, one needs to keep a close eye on them. Belaying the two beginners would have prevented the injuries, but the terrain was such that no one would have seen a need to belay. (Source: Phil Loe)