American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Various Falls on Snow, California, Mount Shasta

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2006

VARIOUS FALLS ON SNOW

California, Mount Shasta

There were seven climbing-related accidents on Mount Shasta last season, with most of them being on the Avalanche Gulch route. With a smooth snow surface, we had a few climbers who fell and tumbled 1,000 or more feet, suffering only bruising and large abrasions. Injuries from other incidents included, tib/fib fracture, fractured ribs, torn knee ligament, and abrasions.

The accident of note last year was June 12, when a man (age unknown) fell over 1,000 feet on the east side. Apparently, he had descended from the summit through a steep section of the Hotlum-Wintun route and was putting on his skis, and standing on a 40-degree slope when he fell. Another climber hiked out and notified Siskiyou County Sheriff Search and Rescue of life-threatening injuries to the fallen climber around 12,000 feet on the Wintun glacier.

We had windy conditions that day, and earlier on the south side of the mountain, a climber had literally been blown over by the wind and fell 1,000 feet—but suffered only minor injuries. Because of the wind, four USFS Climbing Rangers and two SAR volunteers could be flown only to around 8,500 feet. When the rescue party arrived at the scene, the injured climber was conscious and stable. He had injuries to head, shoulder, lower back, hip, and knee.

A lowering system had to be constructed. Fortunately, at last light, winds decreased and he was short hauled by CDF Helicopter 202 to an LZ at 8,500 feet, where he was transferred to a CHP helicopter with a paramedic on board and flown to Mercy Medical Center. He remained in the hospital for several days. He was released with several lacerations on his head, bone chipping on the skull, a broken jaw, dislocated shoulder, large hematoma to the lower back, and torn ligaments in his right knee.

Climbing Mount Shasta in perfect conditions has a certain amount of risk. High winds increase that risk, and in my opinion, this was not a good day to climb. Crawling to the summit in high winds is NOT courageous or noble. Turning around and descending to safer elevations is. (Source: Eric White, Climbing Ranger/Avalanche Specialist, USFS)

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