Fall on Snow, Washington, Mount Rainier, Disappointment Cleaver

Publication Year: 2011.


Washington, Mount Rainier, Disappointment Cleaver

On July 30 at 1130, Rangers received a 911 call from an independent climbing party at approximately 12,000 feet on the Disappointment Cleaver. The report was that one member of their party, Gary Fredrickson (age unknown) had slipped while descending the route and tumbled over rock and snow, injuring himself in the process. A response team of two guides left Camp Muir at 1200 with medical supplies to get an initial assessment of the patient. NPS climbing ranger Tom Payne, along with two guides, responded from Muir shortly after 1200 with more supplies and the plan of possibly flying the patient off of the mountain. Guides arrived on scene at 1311 and found the patient to have sustained injuries to his head and neck. Ranger Payne arrived on scene and packaged the patient on a backboard and into a litter capable of being hoisted into a helicopter. At 1555 an army reserve Chinook left Kautz heli-base with climbing rangers Scheele and Ashby on board. At 1612 the patient was hoisted into the aircraft and flown to Madigan Hospital where he was transferred to the emergency department.


It is unknown whether fatigue, lack of experience, or environmental conditions contributed to this incident. The climbing route where the injury happened was in good shape, although warm snow conditions could have played a role. The climber was wearing a helmet when he fell, which very possibly saved him from further injury, as the helmet was cracked during the fall. He did sustain a fractured C-7 vertebra, but it was repaired with no known loss of neuro-functions. (Source: Edited from a report by Cooper Self, Climbing Ranger)

(Editor's Note: Ranger Cooper Self added the following: “In addition to the preceding reports, Climbing Rangers at Rainier responded to a number of other incidents during the 2010 season. Out of almost 10,000 climbers, there were 19 major SAR events involving climbers or day users above 8,000 feet on Rainier. These included eleven other rescues or assists. Four of these incidents involved broken bones and other less severe trauma. Rangers responded to seven medical calls where patients needed assistance from the NPS, including cardiac arrest, diabetic emergencies, and various respiratory and altitude related emergencies. There were also four searches conducted for overdue climbing parties that eventually showed up under their own power or were found with no injury. Climbing rangers also responded to numerous medical calls and rescues and visitor assists in the lower elevations of Mount Rainier National Park. ”)

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