Logo Jim Frankenfield
jim@mountain-guiding.com; 1-877-604-0166

Mountain Guiding; Mountain Safety
An Experienced Professional

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Guiding Newsletter

Accident Analysis Archive - July 2000


Mt Baker, WA - Crevasse Fall, Amazing Helicopter Rescue
Mt Washington, OR - Leader Fall on Rock

There have been two other rescues in the Cascades since our Mt Hood rockfall incident and the associated media feeding frenzy. While both have been more dramatic (and had more serious consequences) neither received much media attention. Of course neither was on Mt Hood.

Two climbers on the N Ridge of Baker, roped together, fell into a crevasse. One was dead, the other seriously injured. After a couple hours some other climbers came along and three other parties ultimately helped out. They called for an outside rescue, and it sounds like the survivor was removed from the crevasse.

The remarkable part of this story is the air evac by the Navy pilot from Whidby. The survivor went into cardiac arrest while the helicopter was on site, but he was above the maximum elevation the thing is supposed to fly at. So the pilot hovered his large military helicopter just over the ground with the rotors coming within 30 ft of the ridge, and he used the air cushion from the rotorwash to ride the terrain up above the official elevation limit. He then hovered there while the victim was winched up and the paramedics could take over the CPR. This was the pilots first real rescue mission, making it especially impressive. The victim survived despite having gone into cardiac arrest on the mountain.

The other recent accident was on Mt Washington, and I know little about it at this time. Two climbers fell over 100' (from what I can gather) and both sustained multiple fractures. This was on Thursday prior to the 4th of July. They must have had no communication equipment at all because they were out there, unable to move and in pain, for two nights. On Saturday they were discovered and evacuated by air. With today's technology there is no reason not to be able to communicate. Cell phone coverage is pretty good in most of the Cascades, although it was probably poor at the base of the west face where they were. Sport radios are common. And if you have access to a VHF radio (properly programmed) you can reach somebody almost anywhere. We just don't always think about this when we set out because we don't anticipate accidents.

The fall on Washington was attributed, in the media, to equipment failure. Of course the media is a terribly inaccurate source of information, and equipment itself rarely fails. Most likely some anchor placement failed, either from poor rock (likely in Oregon) or from poor placement. I will be very surprised if the equipment itself actually failed. [For further comments on this incident see the next one or two issues of archived accident commentaries.]


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