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Fall on Glacier Ice, Inadequate Protection, Protection Pulled Out, Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier Route

FALL ON GLACIER ICE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, PROTECTION PULLED OUT

Washington, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier Route

On August 8 at 9:15 a.m., while leading the second icy pitch of the Kautz Glacier Route, Bryan Fry (28) fell on the 45-degree icy pitch. What protection had been placed between him and his partner, John Dufay (25), pulled out as Fry fell. Fry’s fall jerked Dufay off the slope and the pair tumbled an estimated 400 to 600 feet before coming to rest in a shallow crevasse.

Dufay suffered multiple lacerations and contusions during the fall; Fry sustained several minor injuries and a badly broken ankle. Dufay assisted Fry onto a narrow shelf in the crevasse and made him as comfortable as possible before seeking help. Dufay unroped and descended the route and through the ice chute back towards Camp Hazard. In the ice chute above Camp Hazard, Dufay met an RMI guide, Lyndon Mallory, who radioed the NPS for help.

Due to the terrain at the accident site and the anticipated hazards involved in a carry-out, an air evacuation was the fastest and safest option available. At 11:20 a.m., ranger Glenn Kessler spoke directly with Dufay via radio and received a first-hand account of the situation. Mallory then ascend with Dufay back to the accident site and helped care for Fry. A helicopter hoist operation was arranged to evacuate Fry from the location.

At 4:52 p.m., an Oregon Army National Guard Blackhawk lifted off from Kautz Heli-base and flew to the accident site with ranger Kessler. Kessler was hoisted onto the glacier where Fry and Mallory were waiting. Fry was assessed, prepared for evacuation and hoisted back into the Blackhawk with Kessler. Mallory and Dufay descended on foot but were slowed by Dufay’s injuries and exhaustion. The two biwied around 9,000 feet and arrived at the Comet Falls Trailhead at noon the next day.

Analysis

Fry and Dufay were lucky not to have fallen farther, as the Kautz Glacier becomes an ice cliff only a few hundred feet below where they came to rest. Fry reported that he had only one or two 9cm ice screws placed when he fell.

Dufay recalls getting in position to arrest Fry’s fall, but was unsuccessful stopping the fall due to the steep angle and icy conditions. He recalls slowing several times thinking the fall was over, only to be yanked downhill again. When he came to rest, he was balled up in the rope. Given the distance of their fall, it is impressive that both did not suffer more severe injuries.

While the Kautz Glacier route can be an ice-free snow climb until midseason, several parties have underestimated the difficulty of late season conditions. As the winter snow cover disappears and more ice presents itself, there is a need for more ice climbing equipment. It is difficult to predict how much ice climbing gear may be needed given the variety of conditions possible. It is best to prepare for the worst and bring a few extra screws. (Source: Mike Gauthier, SAR Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)