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Mazama climber Patrick Wang suffers fatal runaway glissade on Mt. Whitney

Patrick Wang Memorial Fund
"Mazamas member Patrick Wang died tragically on April 10, 2005, while descending Mt. Whitney in California. Patrick apparently slipped on the north facing portion of the Mountaineers Route.

Joining the Mazamas in 2002, Patrick was a graduate of BCEP, ICS and Advanced Rock and was a very active climber. In his brief climbing career, Patrick summitted some impressive routes with the Mazamas, including Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Rainier, Sloan Peak, West MacMillan Spire, and Mt. Thompson. Patrick climbed on many Mazamas climbs and he was always an energetic, thoughtful team member. He was a good climber and a great person, and we will really miss him.

Patrick was a remarkable person. Not only was he an accomplished climber, but he was also a musician and talented photographer. He had recorded a CD with his band and his photos can be found on his web site Professionally, Patrick was a software engineer and worked at Intel.

Patrick’s family has requested that all contributions in Patrick's memory be made to the Mazamas and directed to the Patrick Wang Memorial Fund.

If you would like to make a contribution, you may do so on the phone or via mail to the address below.
Mazamas, 909 NW 19th Avenue. Portland OR 97209, 503-227-2345 ext 1"
--Quoted from Mazama 2004


Summit Post
Posted by socalmtneer, 2005-04-12 (edited 2005-04-12)
"Patrick Wang died after an attempt at glissading off of the (Mount Whitney) Mountaineers Route top couloir.

My group was at camp at Iceberg Lake when 3 men descending the MR came and asked for a phone. They informed us that a partner of one of them had gone over the NW face cliff after trying to glissade off the steep section above the notch on the MR.

I walked out to a point where I could get reception and phoned for assistance which came by helicopter in the am. I phoned the SAR dispatch to follow up this morning and they confirmed the death.

Please be careful people if you are going up in the mountains. We sometimes think we have skills that we don't or underestimate nature or overestimate our experience."


Mt. Whitney, The Sierra Nevada & Beyond...
Posted by gravlin on April 14, 2005 11:50 AM
"When Martin Kozaczek watched his friend cartwheel down a steep, snowy chute and slam against the rocks, it occurred to him that the climber might already be dead.

Then he watched Patrick Wang of Hillsboro vanish over the edge of a sheer cliff.

Wang, a 27-year-old Intel software engineer and experienced mountaineer, died Sunday afternoon after slipping while descending the summit of California's Mount Whitney,
at 14,494 feet the tallest peak in the continental United States.

Search and rescue climbers from Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks recovered Wang's body Monday morning. It was the second climbing fatality at the same
location in a month.

Services are pending in State College, Penn., where Wang was raised. And his friends in Oregon plan a service for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at Orenco Presbyterian
Church in Hillsboro. There, they'll memorialize a creative, technically savvy intellectual who loved adventure, the outdoors, photography and rock 'n' roll.

In less than three decades of life, Wang had traveled much of the world. He'd learned to climb with the Mazamas and summited more than two dozen peaks. He helped
found and played lead guitar for the Portland-area rock band Spontaneous Woo.

"I can't believe all this ability and talent just disappeared," said Bruce Hope, a volunteer Mazamas instructor who taught Wang basic mountaineering in 2002 and watched his skill and desire soar.

Kozaczek and Wang, friends since junior high school in Pennsylvania, had talked for months about their trip. Kozaczek said Wednesday that Wang wanted to reach the
highest and lowest points in the continental United States in one trip: Mount Whitney and Death Valley.

Kozaczek is athletic but had never climbed before. So he left the technical details to his friend, who, he said, "was a nut when it came to planning . . . the routes, avalanche reports, approach data. . . . He could have climbed this thing blind, I think."

He picked up Wang at Los Angeles International Airport last Wednesday. They spent the night at Kozaczek's place in Pasadena, Calif., going through their gear, packing
and talking. The next morning, they drove about four hours north to Bishop, Calif., where Wang had to make one important stop: to see Mountain Light Gallery, featuring the work of the late Galen Rowell, a storied mountaineer and photographer, whom Wang idolized.

By nightfall Thursday, the two men had hiked to about 8,300 feet and set up camp.

On Friday, they planned to make it to Iceberg Lake, at 12,600 feet the preferred base camp for those climbing Whitney in the spring.

In summer, hundreds of hikers summit Whitney's craggy peak each day. But in spring, the climb is sometimes hairy and always technical, requiring such gear as crampons and ice axes. Some climbers rope together on the steep pitch approaching the summit.

Things took more time on Friday, it turned out. By the time Kozaczek and Wang got to Boy Scout Lake, well below Iceberg, the weather turned. At 3:30 p.m., winds howled and snow fell in a near whiteout. They decided to set up camp for the night, took shelter behind a rock, digging a partial snow cave and setting up their tent.

Their night was cold and wet -- miserable, Kozaczek said.

Saturday, the storm passed, but the two men decided to stay put, warm up and dry off their gear. To pass time, Wang insisted his novice-climber friend practice self-arrest, or stopping with the help of an ice axe. They talked about making the summit and agreed they wouldn't try it unless conditions were good.

"He was pretty adamant about safety," Kozaczek said. "We were almost rehearsing our 'Yeah, we didn't make it' speech."

When they rose at 4 a.m. Sunday after a good night's sleep, they ate a quick breakfast and began the ascent, headlamps lighting the way under a cloudless sky.

Shortly after noon, they made it to an area known as The Notch. They sipped water, ate a snack and rested before pushing up the brutal pitch to the summit. For 90
minutes, Kozaczek said, they were "basically crawling up the mountain on all fours. It's pretty damned steep."

At the top, they found nothing but warm sun and tremendous views in all directions.

"I don't really ever remember seeing Pat that happy," Kozaczek said. "He was just thrilled."

They spent 45 minutes on the summit reveling in their accomplishment, taking pictures and resting up for the descent.

Wang suggested the best way to head down would be to glissade, or use a controlled sliding technique in which the ice ax works as a break.

Kozaczek went first. Being new to climbing, he struggled. He tried sliding feet first, on his stomach. Then on his rear. Then walking slowly, digging in his heels.

He slipped, sliding fast down the snow. He rolled onto his stomach and planted his ice axe. He stopped but had fallen at least 30 feet. Nervous, Kozaczek changed his tune and slid just 5 feet at a time, slow and steady.

Below, a climber on the way up reprimanded Kozaczek. If he slipped, the climber said, Kozaczek could have taken the man out. Kozaczek moved to the side of the chute to let the climber pass.

Just as he did, he heard the man yell: "Oh no! Oh no!"

Kozaczek heard his friend next. Wang was cursing as he slipped on his rear down the chute. He was going too fast. Just then, he flipped and tumbled, passing Kozaczek
and the other climber. When Wang slammed into some rocks, his cursing stopped.

His fall didn't.

Wang cart wheeled down the slope. A piece of his glasses struck the other climber. Kozaczek worried his friend would hit another field of rocks.

Then he was gone.

It was about 3:30 p.m. The entire fall, Kozaczek said, took maybe five seconds.

"The idea that he could fall off the mountain was just impossible," Kozaczek said. "He was just gone. He disappeared. That was the weirdest, strangest feeling in the world. I was in disbelief."

Wang tumbled an estimated 300 to 400 feet before plunging off a 1,000-foot cliff. His fall at that point was obstructed from sight.

Kozaczek and another climber peered over and wondered whether there was any way to reach his friend. But there wasn't.

By the time word reached rescuers, darkness approached. Efforts at recovery would have to wait until morning.

Later, Kozaczek told Bruce Hope, the Mazamas climbing instructor in Oregon, that his friend's death resulted from a simple combination of bad luck and poor judgment.
"We've all had bad luck and used poor judgment," Hope said Wednesday. "But we didn't pay as big a consequence for it."


Summit Post
A Whitney Birthday Climb and a Great Loss.
Date Climbed: Apr 10, 2005
Posted by socalmtneer on Apr 14, 2005 (2,425 Hits)
"When we approached the steep pitch that would put us on Iceberg Lake, a few people did not like the look of it. Chad and Jessica went with their intuition and opted for a
camp just below. Ben followed suit and the guided group had long decided to pitch camp below Iceberg. Scott and I took a look at the section and after a brief discussion
with Kevin and Bill we all chose to do it. 15 minutes later we were scoping out a flat spot next to the frozen Iceberg Lake looking at the sun going down behind the tallest
hunk of granite in the continental US. The sharp shadow swallowed our newly staked camp as we watched three little black figures descend the MR.

Scott went immediately to work flattening out a tent platform and then, like magic, had constructed a kitchen in the snow that would make Wolfgang Puck proud to cook in. I mean this guy is a damned architect with a shovel.

The events that occurred over the next hours will be something all of us on the mountain will remember always. The three figures that had been seen descending walked
toward our camp. One of them (I don’t recall which) asked if anyone had a cell phone or radio. We asked why and were told that they needed to report a possible fatality.
Everyone offered their phones but we informed the men that they would not get reception until just above Upper Boyscout Lake.

We inquired as to what the situation was and were informed that the partner of one of the climbers had attempted a glissade from the couloir above the notch on the MR. He lost control, unable to self-arrest, hit some rocks, began to cartwheel and slid over the edge of the NW face of Whitney narrowly missing the other three climbers below him. We all knew his fate but were still trying to formulate a plan. Two of our group offered to walk down with the men and let them use their phone. I protested, as all of our gear was where we were and offered my phone. I told the men to take it and when they were done they could leave it under my car. I gave them a quick tutorial and asked if they understood how to operate it. They were all in shock and could not really get it.

I decided to walk to a point at the top of the cliff of the Iceberg basin that overlooks the area above and SW of Upper Boyscout. I figured my phone would work here. I asked the men to follow me. They did but at a great distance. I got to an area right at the edge of the cliff there and got a bit of reception, enough to roam a call 911. They hooked me up with National Forrest who asked if they could call back when they could coordinate with SAR. CALL BACK?!!! “I am at 12,600ft in the Sierras on a dying piece of shit cell phone!!!” The reply I got was “okay then you call us back”…………

Over the next 20 minutes we played phone tag. Explaining the situation, giving names, locations, elevations etc. etc. until the decision was made to dispatch a chopper at
sunrise. We all had an odd night. No one slept.

We awoke to a perfect Sierra sunrise. The guided group was heading up. We prepared breakfast and melted water. Bill wished to go but had no ice axe. “I would feel like a
big fucker if I did not tell you not to go without an ice axe” I told him. We all agreed and poor Bill reluctantly stayed at Iceberg. This though, as you will remember from earlier in the story, is farther than he had planned to go. So it was not an altogether bad thing.

Kevin, Scott and I took off up the MR. Scott was to ski down while Kevin and I would old school it and skip down. The snow did not seem too appealing to Scott during the
ascent and so he stashed the skis about half way to the notch. It was about 10am when the chopper was first heard doing a recon flyby on the west side of the ridge. At the notch we scoped out the traverse to the backside of the summit slope. It did not look too appealing so it was up the couloir. The guided group had fixed a rope here for their clients and they were all waiting in line to use ascenders and climb up. The three of us climbed to the left and summited at almost high noon. We snapped a few photos and could not keep the incident of the day before out of our heads as the chopper was visible on the floor just below and to the west of the Whitney Russell ridge and Patrick’s name was the last one signed before our own entries.



Summit Post
Posted by phomchick, 2005-04-16 (edited 2005-04-16)
"Wow, that is CRAZY! That chute is way too dangerous to glissade!

I certainly agree with this!

An earlier message asked about the alternative of walking down the gentle west slopes and then traversing back to the notch. Even though Secor mentions a variation to the Mountaineer's Route where "...many parties continue traversing west from the notch for a distance of approximately 300 yards before turning left and climbing a gentle slope to the summit." I have been up the chute, and across the traverse, and I greatly prefer the chute. Here is why.

Over the weekend of May 25-27, 1979 I climbed the Mountaineer's Route with my buddy Blair. At the top of the notch, we found the chute to the summit was filled with snow. Blair climbed the face to the east of the chute to avoid the snow; I stuck to the rocks at the edge of the chute and carefully picked out a route that I was comfortable with. There were several other parties on the route that day.

During the descent, a high school aged fellow from another party broke out of some steps across the snow in the chute and fell to end up spread-eagle, face-down on a small (20' x 20') snow patch above a cliff. The next fellow, hurrying across the same spot to help ALSO FELL and ended up in the same spot. This was enough for me. I took off down the west slopes with the intent of traversing back across the north face to the top of the notch. The closer I got to the notch the steeper the traverse. I was kicking steps in the snow and using my ice axe and ice hammer for handholds. Then, one kick didn't go in very far. I looked down, and noticed one crampon had come off
and was stuck in the snow three feet to my right. Here I was, alone, unprotected by any rope or anchor, and staring at a very important piece of equipment which I would dearly like to have had, but which was not obtainable. I left it there and just kicked harder to get to the safety of the notch, which was 50 feet away. This was the stupidest thing I have every done in the mountains. Meanwhile, the climbers above had set protection and gotten out the ropes and were able to lower the injured climbers down to me at the notch. The only injuries were bumps and scrapes, and everyone got down safely to the campsites below the east face. All's well that ends well, and this experience has provided a heck of a party story.

The experience also underlined for me how dangerous a "simple" 3rd class route can be if you are not careful. Glissading on the Mountaineer's Route is not careful enough for me."


Mt. Whitney, The Sierra Nevada & Beyond...
My Friend's Death on Whitney
Posted by mkozaczek on Tuesday, May 10, 2005
"Ok, so I've received several questions pertaining to "why did we choose to glissade down the first part of the upper chute?"

Let me preface this by saying I've never been mountaineering before this trip. It was my first time wielding and ice axe, wearing crampons and first time at altitude. Pat,
however has been climbing for about three years, has done over 30 expeditions about half of which were summits. I'll post his website with a great link to his photo gallery.

Now, with that in mind the technical decisions were his to make. Earlier in the day when I climbed up the first couloir from IBL to check the snow conditions I attempted to
glissade back down (mit crampons) and was promptly reprimanded for that. A short discussion (read: lecture) ensued about the finer points of glissading and that you do not wear crampons. Seeing as though I had no prior experience I basically yielded and agreed that the climb would proceed per his instructions. All fine, right?

So, while getting ready to climb down we briefly discussed our approach to the descent and he indicated (as he did all along) that we would glissade with out crampons. My common sense alarm went off, but he made it sounds like it was the right thing. Furthermore, we decided to climb down the right side (looking up) where the snow was wind swept and deeper, hence less speed.

I went first, why I don't know. But after a few slides on my stomach which took about 10' to stop, w/o any initial momentum I got sketched out and started to descend by heel plowing (or whatever it's called). I did that for a while and then slipped and started sliding. It took about 30-40' to stop this time around and when I did the first thing I saw were the rocks below me. Now, I was never scared or intimidated once during the entire climb until this point. At which time I just started front pointing (sort of, w/o
crampons) down to the rock ledge about 250-300' below the summit. At which time I traversed over to the side to allow another climber to get up.

This is when the shit hit the fan and Pat started falling. I missed the first instant of it all. But from Jessie's account he picked up too much speed instantly and it was all over within 10 yards or so.

Pat's fall line took him across the chute (top right to bottom left) which is where I think bad-luck played a large part. The snow in the middle was very consolidated resulting in faster speeds and greater difficulty breaking in with the axe.

So that's my summary of the how and why.

Mt. Whitney, The Sierra Nevada and Beyond...


Note: Be aware that it may be impossible to abort a glissade after the speed has quickly built. Speed impossible to control can build in 20 feet. Be aware that if you catch a foot, you may tumble out of control.
--Robert Speik





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