Block of Ice Calved Off — Fall on Ice, Washington, North Cascades National Park, Torment-Forbidden Traverse

Publication Year: 2010.


Washington, North Cascades National Park, Torment-Forbidden Traverse

On August 9, AMGA Instructor Pool member, Certified Rock Guide and former member of the AMGA Board of Directors, Craig Luebben (49), died of injuries sustained while attempting to climb the Torment-Forbidden Traverse. Craig and Willie Benegas were climbing and training together for an upcoming AMGA Alpine Exam at the time of the incident.

They started the traverse on the SE Face of Torrent via the Taboo Glacier. At the bergschrund, with Craig leading and Willie belaying, Craig attempted to bypass the remnant ice hanging above the bergschrund by ascending rock on the right and then traversing left on to the ice for the exit moves. According to Wille, around 0630, as Craig transitioned from the rock to the ice, a block of ice 100 feet by 20 feet by ten feet calved off, taking Craig with it, resulting in a 30-40-foot fall. A single cam device held his fall. While not struck by the initial block, Craig was critically injured by falling ice and debris as he hung from his rope. Willie managed to get Craig to his belay stance in the bergschrund, stabilize and treat his injuries and contact rescue personnel. Despite Willie’s heroic efforts and a swift response from NCNP SAR personnel, Craig succumbed to his injuries.

Willie suffered minor injuries to his leg and is expected to make a full recovery. (Source: From an AMGA posting and a report by Kelly Bush, Wilderness District Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: There was one other report from the North Cascades that came directly from two climbers, 43 and 50, one of whom momentarily lost control on a rappel, resulting in a fractured seventh rib. The climber thinks that if he had been using an autoblock, he might have been able to use is hands to avoid hitting the ledge with his back when he lost his balance. This is a good observation in general.)