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Accidents in North American Mountaineering, Sixty-Third Annual Report of the American Alpine Club

Canada: Canada submitted narratives for 2009, but no data for Tables.

United States: Errata: First, Last year's cover page incorrectly indicated the Volume as being #10. It should read #9. We bind four to six Numbers, depending upon total number of pages. This makes up one volume. Second, a fatality was reported from Colorado's Eldorado Canyon. The source was Boulder's The Daily Camera. The report of his demise, as Mr. Twain would have said, was premature. He is indeed alive.

It was another year of rappel and lowering errors. Several of them appear in the narratives. The usual causes—rope too short and no knot in the end(s) of the rope(s)—were indicated. An interesting new one was the result of using a rope too small in diameter for the device being used—a Grigri. And in another case, an individual threaded his lowering rope through a webbing anchor sling at the top. The resulting friction caused the rope to burn through it. It is hard understand why we are still seeing these errors when so much basic information is to be found in “how to” books, catalogues, on the Web, and at frequently visited climbing sites.

Two citations came to our attention this year. One involved a woman from Lithuania on Mount McKinley. She demanded to be flown out—even going so far as to call her embassy on a satellite phone from the mountain—despite her injury being very minor and manageable. The other citation was given to a group of hikers who used a SPOT device to call for a rescue from the Grand Canyon. The park determined this helicopter evacuation to be a false alarm. When the party was asked what they would have done without the SPOT device, the leader stated, “We would have never attempted this hike.”

There are some very moving first-person narratives that were sent forward. (See California especially) The details and facts found in these incidents are greatly enhanced by the authors’ personal observations and feelings expressed.

There are still a number of climbing areas not reporting data or incident reports, including such popular areas as Joshua Tree National Park (CA) and Baraboo State Park (WI). On one blog site, there was a complaint that we do not seem to report any incidents from any of the many local crags in Massachusetts. It’s time to point out once again that we are only as good as a) the managers of public and private lands and b) the network of volunteers who are willing to participate in contributing to this effort.

As mentioned in previous issues and throughout this report, there are some web-based resources that often provide good information and accident stories. Here is a short-list of some of those sites:

http://home.nps.gov/applications/morningreport/

www.supertopo.com

www.mountainproject.com

http://www.tuckerman.org/

http://www.mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com/

http://www.friendsofyosar.org/

In addition to the dedicated individuals on the Safety Advisory Council (especially Aram Attarian, who is now taking on Colorado and the Southeast), we are grateful to the following—with apologies for any omissions —for collecting data and for helping with the report: Hank Alacandri, Erik Hansen, Janet Miller, Leo Paik, Justin Preisendorfer, all individuals who sent in personal stories, and, of course, George Sainsbury.

John E. (Jed) Williamson

Managing Editor

7 River Ridge Road

Hanover, NH 03755

jedwmsn@mac.com

Rob Davidson

Canadian Editor

Alpine Club of Canada

Indian Flats Rd

Canmore, AB T1W 2W8

anameditor@alpineclubofcanada.ca