Fall into Crevasse, Washington, Mount Rainier, Enroute to Wilson Headwall

Publication Year: 2009.


Washington, Mount Rainier, enroute to Wilson Headwall

On the morning of May 4th, three climbers left Camp Muir, following a gentle downhill traverse to reach the base of the Wilson Headwall. About ten minutes out from the camp, they stopped to scout and evaluate the need for roping up prior to entering a known crevasse area. While stopped, one of the climbers fell through the snow into a crevasse to a depth of approximately 120 feet. The climbers were able to put out a distress radio call via the park frequency. Climbing ranger Arlington Ashby responded within 15 minutes of the call from Camp Muir and assessed the situation. Climbing rangers Thomas Payne and Joe Franklin soon arrived from Camp Muir to assist in the rescue, with Payne assuming the role as team lead. The stranded climber was wedged head-first deep in the crevasse, giving responders only two feet of vertical space in which to maneuver. After removing his pack by cutting the straps, they were able to haul him out of the crevasse.

“The position of the climber, stranded headfirst at a very narrow point in the crevasse, combined with his hypothermic condition, made time a critical issue and a quick crevasse rescue imperative,” said incident commander David Gottlieb. Due to these factors, the climber was removed from the crevasse, placed on a backboard, and then taken to Camp Muir. A Bell Jet Ranger helicopter was placed on standby to fly him out once the weather cleared. During this time, rangers worked with the Northwest Helicopters pilot to reconfigure the Jet Ranger to carry a litter. Although the climber fell a long distance, he suffered only superficial wounds. (Source: Patti Wold, Incident Information Officer)