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Falling Rock — Triggered by Party Above, Poor Position, Washington, North Cascades, Forbidden Peak, West Ridge

FALLING ROCK – TRIGGERED BY PARTY ABOVE, POOR POSITION

Washington, North Cascades, Forbidden Peak, West Ridge

About 6:30 pm. on August 18, Jay Kullyman (42) and his partner had completed the rappels of the gully (climber’s) left of the standard couloir on the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak. They were standing on snow when they heard warnings of “Rock!” from above. Both tried to evade the rock-fall, but Kullyman sustained deep lacerations above one knee with resulting significant blood loss.

He was lowered and assisted to camp by his partner, the two climbers who had triggered the rock and another party of four. They reached camp after midnight. The group decided assistance was needed and a satellite phone call was placed to 911 by a commercial group, also camped at the upper bivy sites in Boston Basin.

Rangers for NCNP responded by both ground and helicopter. The injured climber was evacuated by helicopter the following morning.

Analysis

Forbidden Peak is one of the most appealing and sought mountaineering objectives in the North Cascades. Various outstanding routes exist on multiple ridges and faces. The West Ridge is arguably the easiest approach and most frequently completed route to the summit with various descent options.

Its popularity does draw many parties, especially on fair weather weekends, creating the standard hazard of rock-fall especially on descent of the gullies used to obtain and descend the ridge.

Observations of the obvious rock-fall in the gully showed that there was potential in this incident for more casualties. The higher party had tested a large rock for stability, sending it down the gully toward both climbers, as well as climbers below them. It is fortunate that only the one climber was hit.

Jay Kuyllman reported that he has been a trad and ice climber for 20-years And that his has partner even more experience. He said, “We are certainly not cutting edge guys, but have both done some of the classic lines in the Tetons, Wind Rivers, we have both done Rainier, Baker, and Stuart, as well as some of the classic climbs in the French Alps. ‘The lesson’ we already knew (was) the danger of being down first on an alpine route. We realized the party above us had less experience, but we had observed them several times on the route and they seemed careful.” (Source: Kelly Bush, Wilderness District Ranger, North Cascades National Park, and Jay Kuyllman)