American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Oregon, Mount Jefferson, Milk Creek Glacier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

FALLING ROCK

Oregon, Mount Jefferson, Milk Creek Glacier

While crossing the north couloir of Milk Creek on July 1, two climbers (both 32) were ascending out of the bottom of the couloir on firm snow. One was crossing the bottom of the couloir when a rock struck him in the forehead.

The evening before the climb, while filtering water from Milk Creek, they did not hear any rockfall. They began their climb at 0230 to avoid rockfall and benefit from firm snow conditions. When they approached the couloir shortly before 0300, the snow was firm enough for them to use crampons. They stopped to put on crampons and to rope up. Still, no rockfall was heard. At 0310, a rock was heard rolling down the couloir. In the darkness, it was impossible to see the rock, but T.E. heard it strike P.D. and turned to see P.D.’s headlamp flying down the couloir.

A climbing group of ten came to the aid of these two and called for help. P.D. was evacuated by a National Guard helicopter about seven hours after the accident. He had suffered a concussion.

Analysis

This accident appears to be just bad luck. The climbers looked for but did not observe any rockfall earlier in the evening prior or during the climb until the one rock that caused the accident. The climbers started their climb in the early morning to lessen the rockfall danger. They stopped before reaching the couloir to rope up and put on crampons so they could move quickly through the couloir. It is not known what actions P.D. took immediately prior to the rock striking him, but he was wearing a helmet, which no doubt saved his life. (Source: Bob Freund)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.