American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock — Hiking Turns into Climbing Terrain, Inexperience, Oregon, North Sister

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2012

FALL ON ROCK – HIKING TURNS INTO CLIMBING TERRAIN, INEXPERIENCE

Oregon, North Sister

On September 24, Brian C. Jones (37) slipped on the 35-degree friable volcanic rock slope below the summit of North Sister and tumbled down about 1,000 vertical feet to his death.

Jones “…was scrambling on some of the terrain near his climbing partner and he slipped, started sliding, and then cart wheeled down the mountain,” according to the report from Lane County Sheriff’s volunteer SAR unit.

Analysis

North Sister is a fourth-class route under normal conditions, approached along the top of the south ridge by a faint “climber’s way” high up along the west side of a gendarme called The Camel’s Hump. The route then winds to the east side of a second gendarme, then traverses across an exposed, friable 3 5 degree slope called the “Terrible Traverse” just under the Prouty Pinnacles to a gully called “The Bowling Alley” that leads to the summit blocks. Many groups equipped with helmets and rock climbing skills will elect to set a hand line across this traverse and then belay (and rappel) the loose and often ice covered gully to the summit. Other gifted, trained, and experienced individuals have virtually run to the summit talus blocks.

End of summer thunderstorms had coated the steep volcanic scree slopes with snow and ice. Slips under these conditions can lead to uncontrollable falls. (Source: Robert Speik)

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