American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Ice—Dislocated Shoulder, Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

SLIP ON ICE-DISLOCATED SHOULDER

Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier

On June 30, Dallas Baker (27) sustained a dislocated shoulder while descending the upper ice pitch of the Kautz Glacier near 11,800 feet. He was facing the glacier slope with his ice tools in the ice when his footing gave way. He was able to use one ax and catch the fall, but strained and dislocated his shoulder during the slip. Unable to reset the shoulder, his partner Alex Carroll called 911 seeking help from the NPS. The two slowly continued their descent to Camp Hazard.

A Hughes 500D helicopter was diverted from ongoing aviation operation to assist with the incident. Climbing ranger Stoney Richards was inserted at a small LZ on the cleaver separating the Turtle Snowfield from the Kautz Glacier around 11,000 feet. Richards climbed to the team and assessed Baker. By this time Baker’s shoulder had reduced on its own. Despite

Baker’s improved condition, he was assisted back to the LZ and extracted with Richards to Kautz Heli-base.

Analysis

Baker was able to prevent a substantial fall by holding onto his planted ice tool. His dislocated shoulder seems to have been a much better option than falling down the 45-degree ice slope. The team was using a running belay as they down-climbed the route, so hopefully if he had fallen he would have been caught as soon as the rope between the climbers came under tension.

The result of a fall of this type, even if the running belay protection held, would probably have caused more serious injuries than a dislocated shoulder. Avery similar accident at approximately the same location occurred six weeks later. In the second accident, however, a longer fall resulted and the running protection (two ice screws) ripped out. (Source: Mike Gauthier, SAR Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

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