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Fall on Snow—Loss of Control on Voluntary Glissade, Improper Clothing, California, Mount Baldy

FALL ON SNOW–LOSS OF CONTROL ON VOLUNTARY GLISSADE, IMPROPER CLOTHING

California, Mount Baldy

On April 16, veteran California mountaineer and author Robert (R.J.) Secor (48), glissaded out of control 1,200 vertical feet from near the summit of Mount Baldy to level snow near the Sierra Club’s Baldy Hut, where rescue volunteers stabilized the seriously injured climber. A helicopter evacuation occurred four hours after the fall.

An eyewitness said: “He had his ice ax and his yellow overalls on. He was seated and began to glissade. He lost control very quickly and failed to self-arrest. He tried very hard to. Then he hit the rocks and tumbled down all the way. He started down from the same spot as I did just behind me. It was a terrible accident to watch.”

Another reported that it was likely his ax was lost in the fall and that his crampons were ripped from beneath his pack where he keeps them, because they were not with his things or in his car.

He sustained fractures of the shoulder blade, ribs, and skull.

Analysis

Mount Baldy is a familiar and convenient destination for a lot of us here in Southern California that has the same objective dangers as other alpine peaks have: it’s easy for us to think of it as a benign “local mountain” and to forego precautions we would take on more serious mountains.

One climber said, “I saw him putting on the yellow slickers and thought ‘Well, he’s going for a fast one!’ He lost control very quickly…” (Source: Robert Speik, from an interview with SAR personnel, and Backpacker)