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

Mountain Guiding; Mountain Safety
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Guiding Newsletter

Accident Analysis Archive - November 2001


ANAM 2001 summary for Oregon -
    Rockfall, myself and a partner, Mt Hood
    Fall from Summit, unexplained, Mt Hood
    Leader Fall on Rock, Mt Washington

"Accidents in North American Mountaineering" has three reports from Oregon:

One is the Mt Hood rockfall accident which a friend and I were caught in. The report is pretty much what we wrote and posted on the Oregon Mountaineering Association website. It does mention that a cell phone would be a better way to summons help, which we would both agree with. We had intended to take one but realized after setting out that they were both in the cars. We felt that returning for one would take too much time given that we did have a both a VHF radio and Family Band radios with us. (It also was mis-titled as a "Fall on Rock", which it was not. But the report is accurate.)

Another is a brief note on the fatal fall of Diana Kornet from the summit of Mt Hood.

The most interesting and detailed report is from the Mt Washington accident mentioned in a previous issue. While I did not have many details at that time the report in the book has quite a few. Two contributing factors were that the pair had never done any alpine rock climbs in the wilderness before this trip and that the belay anchor was poorly constructed. These are recurring themes in recent years as sport and gym climbers venture onto longer routes in more remote areas without any knowledge, training or experience in areas such as anchor placement and construction. This was another case where the pair had left their cell phones in the car, and did not have any alternate communications such as any kind of radio. (However, cell coverage at the accident location is uncertain but probably nonexistent.)

This fall I climbed on the west side of Mt Washington myself for the first time. We found that there were many potential dangers. One belay we were going to use at first was very poor with few options to improve it (since it was in a horribly loose corner). We ultimately used another location for the belay anchor. Anchor points placed while leading varied widely, and it is not hard to see how a leader fall could have yanked out the anchor points in this incident. In some places the best placement was in a perfectly sized crack, one side of which would be a large block. With the impact of a leader fall such a placement could shift the block enough to pull out. We also found that the common exit gully is filled with loose rocks and that having another party in it above you at the wrong time could create a very high rockfall hazard.



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