Fall on Snow — Unusual Slip, Washington, Mount Shuksan

Publication Year: 2010.


Washington, Mount Shuksan

On May 23, one of two clients sustained an ankle injury when the guide (29) lost his footing on the descent of Mount Shuksan. He slid down a snow slope, and pulled the clients from their stance. Because of snow conditions and gradient, the guide was unable to stop himself before passing the climbers and before the slack in the rope was spent. The total fall was about 400 feet. Analysis

The guide hadn’t set any protection for himself (nor had the other climbers done so as they descended with his belay) because he was on, what was for him, moderate terrain where he felt no danger of losing his footing. It was a very unusual slip—a freak accident—for a skilled guide.

Throughout his career he has guided his clients without error, and he felt terrible about this accident.

The guide commented, “Among many other responsibilities, a guide’s job is never to fall. We put in protection on challenging terrain so that if the unexpected happens, ill consequences do not occur or are minimal. We also put in protection on moderate terrain when conditions dictate, such as objective danger or probable difficulty in stopping a slip or a fall by clients. In the case of this accident, we were in open terrain with no objective dangers from above, and I felt secure in my footing. Though the snow was soft, I felt that I could fully control my stance and movement. I have always been conservative in placing protection (especially with clients), and this experience has made me even more so.” (Source: Kelly Bush, Wilderness District Ranger, and the guide)