American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow/Ice, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inexperience, California, Mount Shasta, Avalanche Gulch

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2007

FALL ON SNOW/ICE, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INEXPERIENCE

California, Mount Shasta, Avalanche Gulch

On June 3 at 0750, a man (41) fell on snow/ice while ascending at approximately 12,500 feet at the base of the Red Banks in Avalanche Gulch. He attempted to self-arrest but was unsuccessful and fell/slid 1,100 vertical feet. During the fall, his left crampon caught, resulting in fracturing and dislocating his left leg and ankle and multiple bruises and abrasions on much of his body.

A nearby guide observed the fall and called 911. Climbing rangers from Helen Lake (10,400 feet) were notified and responded, arriving at 0845. The climbing rangers and guide stabilized the injured leg and began lowering the victim in a SKED. On a lower angle slope at 11,000 feet, two other climbing rangers arrived at 1130 with a break-down toboggan. The injury was evaluated again. The leg was deformed and out of alignment and his circulation was becoming compromised due to swelling. Helicopter evacuation would be delayed and it was decided that it would be faster to sled the victim to the trailhead, then transported to the ground ambulance and taken to Mercy Medical Center.

He suffered multiple fractures in the leg/ankle area along with dislocation at the ankle. He had emergency surgery that evening and later surgeries to repair the ankle joint. He spent several months recovering and is learning to walk again.

Analysis

The victim had little mountaineering experience, but he was using appropriate clothing and equipment, including a helmet. (Source: Mount Shasta Wilderness Climbing Ranger Report prepared by Eric White, Climbing Ranger/Avalanche Specialist)

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