American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Washington, Snowqualmie Pass, Chair Peak

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


Washington, Snowqualmie Pass, Chair Peak

On September 8, Chad Engstrom (23) tumbled about 600 feet down a 45- degree rock slope while climbing with his uncle, who saw the accident. Rescuers ran out of daylight and planned to return to the site today to recover the young man’s body.

The pair were about two-thirds of the way up the east face of 6,238-foot Chair Peak, about two miles north of Interstate 90. After the two had reached an overhanging horizontal band of granite about 150 feet from the summit, they unroped and started scrambling up the loose rock, said King County deputy Randy Potter. The uncle, a less-experienced climber from Sammamish, grew uncomfortable and stayed behind. Shortly afterward, he heard rock fall, then saw his nephew fall, Potter said.

Mountain rescuers said the accident occurred right next to a much easier route the Seattle-based Mountaineers frequently use for training. The route the two were on was moderate in technical difficulty—5.5, but other experienced climbers said it’s a tricky one to safely navigate.

Another party of climbers, Webster, Peter and Scott Bergford, all of Olympia, called 911 on a cell phone about 1:00 p.m. when they came across the climber’s shredded pack, its gear strewn about the loose scree basin below the peak. A few yards away, they saw the body.

The uncle rappelled down from his perch but left his rope hanging from the anchors. The Bergfords freed the rope, gathered the dead climber’s gear, and built a memorial cairn to help rescuers locate the body.

They waited until early evening for searchers to arrive, then headed down the trail at dusk when no one came. Rescuers had been forced to abandon their efforts throughout the afternoon while they responded to two other accidents. (Source: Craig Welch, Seattle Times staff reporter, September 9)

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