American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall On Rock – Broken Hold, Inadequate Protection

Washington, Mt. Thomson, West Ridge

  • Accident Reports
  • Author: King County Sheriff's Department
  • Accident Year: 2018
  • Publication Year: 2019

On July 14, King County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue was notified that Peter Keckemet (24) had fallen about 100 feet on the west ridge of Mt. Thomson and possibly had broken bones. A helicopter crew was able to pick up Peter and take him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was diagnosed with a fractured vertebra and multiple contusions. Rescuers guided his partner (25) back to the trailhead.

The partner said Keckemet would have fallen only about 20 feet, but a piece of protection pulled loose and instead he fell about 70 feet onto a ledge. Keckemet was not responsive at first. His partner used an emergency beacon to call for help.

ANALYSIS

The west ridge of Thomson has three or four pitches of mostly fourth class and low fifth class, with a few 5.6 moves. Keckemet later said that a foothold had broken, causing his fall. It’s tempting to run it out on easy ground, but placing an extra protection piece occasionally is cheap insurance—it takes little time and has shortened many potentially serious falls in the mountains. (Sources: King County Sheriff’s Department and published reports.)

A short video with a rescuer’s eye view: 

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