American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Placed Inadequate Protection, California, Mount Whitney

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001


California, Mount Whitney

On May 15, Graeme Taylor (39) and Keith Reid (37), both experienced climbers, were in the Giant Staircase of the East Face route on Mt. Whitney. Graeme was about 40 feet out on lead when a snow mushroom he was standing on collapsed. Graeme fell 40 feet to one of the stairs. He briefly lost consciousness and suffered injuries so that he was unable to climb further. Keith placed him in a bivy sack, tied him in, and solo climbed to the top. He descended via the trail and notified the Kern County Sheriff.


Place pro even when your skill level might not require it, especially in questionable terrain. Err on the side of caution when on mixed terrain. Both climbers were wearing helmets. Graeme’s helmet was severely damaged in the fall, but it probably saved his life. (Source: Werner Hueber, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group)

(Editor’s Note: There was one other incident reported from Mount Whitney. A 64- year-old man lost control when glissading, resulting in a fractured fibula. Though he had 48 years of experience, he still chose to wear crampons, and when he hit a hard patch of snow, his right crampon caught.)

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