American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Piton and Chock Failure – Washington, Peak One of Klootchman Rock

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

FALL ON ROCK, PITON AND CHOCK FAILURE—Washington, Peak One of Klootchman Rock. David Steven fell while on the Northeast Comer, Peak One, of Klootchman Rock. He was in the top of a narrow chimney at the lower edge of a sloping bench of rock suspended from his rope. He had been climbing a 5th class pitch of typical Klootchman Rock when he fell, pulling out a piton and a chock before being stopped by the remaining chock.

After a call to me by David Rowland, Mountain Rescue, I arranged for the MAST helicopter to meet Judy Beehler and myself at St. Elizabeth’s Helipad where we were furnished medications by the Emergency Department physician. We flew to the south end of Klootchman where the fall was reported, found no one there so started a circuit of the rock and spotted two people standing at the foot of a rockslide below Peak One on the North End. An attempt was made to land near them but his was not possible due to the extreme roughness of the terrain. The pilot made another flyby of the area and the patient was spotted in the top of the chimney about fifty feet above the base of the cliff. The pilot brought the helicopter to a hover above a large rockpile at the foot of the slope and Judy and I stepped off the skid to the rocks. He then flew to a clearing near the road where he made contact with the deputy and shut down the helicopter. We climbed to the scene with our aid supplies.

After assessing the situation on-scene, the radios with the Sheriff’s Office relay capability proved invaluable. We needed a climbing team with ropes, hardware, and litter that Dave Rowland was assembling in Yakima. Since it would soon be dark, increasing the hazard to the patient and rescuers alike, speed was essential. By using the relay frequency we were able to communicate with the Yakima County Sheriff s office and with the Mountain Rescue truck in Yakima from our position on the face. Using the Mountain Rescue frequency we could communicate with MAST. With both frequencies, we were able to arrange a meet at the Yakima Airport so that MAST could bring another Mountain Rescue team and equipment to the scene before dark. This was successful so that when additional personnel reached the scene by ground transportation after dark, we were then able to complete the lowering and carryout safely and without incident.

The relay frequency also served as a link through your office to enable us to give patient information to the physician in the Emergency Department and receive instructions on medication for the patient. This is very important to the survival of the patient in these life threatening situations. (Source. Lynn Buchanan.)

Analysis: This report, while containing few details as to the nature of the accident in terms of climbing experience, other climbers involved, and whether the piton was new or old, is a demonstration of some of the intricacies involved in rescue operations. Each year an example or two like this is presented in the hope that climbers —especially those unfamiliar with such operations —will not take rescue “for granted.” (Source: J. Williamson.)

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