American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Cleaver

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001


Washington, Mt. Rainier, Kautz Cleaver.

On the evening of July 24, Rainier National Park rescuers, aided by an Army Reserve Chinook helicopter, rescued Tony Leak (47) from the 12,200-foot level of Kautz Cleaver on Mount Rainier. Leak and his two sons Joshua (17) and Caleb (15) were climbing on Kautz Cleaver and had stopped to camp. Leak had removed his climbing helmet to set up camp when spontaneous rock- fall struck the trio. Mr. Leak sustained head injuries. One of Leak’s sons called 911 on a cellular phone and was connected to Climbing Rangers at Camp Muir.

A Ranger team on the summit was dispatched to the site and reached the Leak’s after considerable effort. A Ranger/EMT, assisted by doctors through a radio and phone link to a local hospital, assessed Leak’s condition and determined that it was more serious than anyone originally thought. Equipment and additional rescuers were lowered to the scene by the Chinook. Leak was hoisted to the helicopter after being lowered by sled to the landing zone and flown to Madigan Army Medical Center for treatment. (Source: Steve Winslow, NPS Ranger, Mount Ranier National Park)


“People think this was a climbing accident, but actually the mountain just cut loose and dumped on me as I was getting ready for bed,” Leak said from his room at Madigan Army Medical Center. He was in stable condition recovering from a broken neck, back and head injuries.

Caleb, who has been climbing with his father for about four years, said the harrowing trip brought the family together. “It was kind of rough at times. But it was well worth it,” he told The Seattle Times. Leak said he owes his condition today to the boys’ first-aid assistance.

(Editor’s Note: There was a considerable amount of cellphone conversation involved in this incident. The rangers called Mr. Leak’s wife. She had received calls from her husband and sons. She informed the Rangers that she did not think the boys could be of help, given their level of experience. Initially, Mr Leak told the Rangers he thought he could descend without assistance, but this did not prove to be the case.)

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