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Fall on Snow—Loss of Control on Voluntary Glissade, California, Mount Whitney

FALL ON SNOW—LOSS OF CONTROL ON VOLUNTARY GLISSADE

California, Mount Whitney

On April 10, Patrick Wang (27) and Martin Kozaczek (27) climbed the Mountaineer’s Route on Mount Whitney. On descent, around 14,000 feet, there is a steep traverse on a snowfield between the summit and the notch. The climbers decided to remove their crampons and attempt to glissade. Kozaczek went first and began to slide too fast. He was able to self-arrest.

Wang began his descent and immediately began to slide too fast. He attempted unsuccessfully to self-arrest. He tumbled out of sight over a rock band. His body was found the next day.

Analysis

Wang was reported to be an experienced mountaineer. Snow conditions were consolidated, windblown, and icy. The traverse is short in distance, but is the most technical portion of the climb. Due to the short distance, the consequences of a fall are often overlooked.

Many choose to climb/descend un-roped and unprotected here. There have been numerous fatalities at this same location. In fact, there was another fatality here within one month of this one involving a solo climber who was wearing crampons but not carrying an ice ax. There was another accident in the same place in October resulting in serious injury. (Source: Gregory Moss, Sequoia District Ranger and Chris Waldschmidt, SAR Coordinator for Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks)