TraditionalMountaineering Logo(TM) representing the shared 
companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links

Read more:

Climbers fall on Mt. Washington in Oregon Cascades

The primary purpose of these reports and the Annual Report of Accidents in North American Mountaineering is to aid in the prevention of accidents:  Fall or slip on rock, Equipment failure: single spectra sling improperly placed and loaded, Nut or chock pulled out, Exceeding abilities, Failed to follow route, Inadequate belay anchor, Placed inadequate protection, Laceration, Fracture, Infection

At sunrise on Thursday, June 29, 2000, Eric Seyler and Kurt Smith left their bivouac high on the North Ridge of Mt. Washington to climb Central Pillar described by their guide book, “Oregon High” by Jeff Thomas, as “steep, exposed and a joy to climb”. Unable to positively identify the described route, they chose a line that looked promising. At the top of the first 90-foot pitch of blocky straightforward rock, Eric arrived at rappel slings looped between a fixed piton and a large block. He replaced the slings with a single spectra sling stretched horizontally around the block between the fixed piton and a new passive nut placement. He belayed Kurt to a ledge below and clove hitched Kurt to the single nut at one side of the sling. Kurt set two small passive nuts and attached each of them to his harness. As Eric climbed on he clipped the rope to one side of the spectra sling as a first point of protection above his belayer. He set 3 more passive nuts for protection as he climbed on.

Shortly after, Eric and Kurt fell more than 100 feet to hard sloping snow after breaking the spectra sling and tearing out each piece of protection and anchor gear they had set in the brittle volcanic rock. Both young men lay in agony with broken legs and other very serious injuries for three cold days in the wind and burning sun and two frigid nights high in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

By luck alone, their whistle was heard by two Saturday hikers with radio and telephone contact to the Deschutes County SAR and soon after, by four members of the Eugene Mountain Rescue team on a personal outing, perhaps the only climbers on the mountain that weekend. Late in the day, they were airlifted out by USAF Reserve helicopter that was guided in by a cell phone patch.

Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?
The conversion of sport climbing skills to mountaineering is perceived by alpinists to be full of dangers that are hidden to the uninformed. Wilderness mountaineering at 7,500 feet requires a significant investment of effort and experience to balance the risk. At guidebook rated 5.8, Eric believed this route was well within his capabilities. He had been sport climbing for several years but leading traditional for about two years at 5.9+ at Boughton’s Bluff, a local crag. This was essentially his first wilderness rock route. Guidebook generalities must be interpreted with cautious experience on less than perfect alpine rock.

Eric now realizes he made a grave error in not creating an equalized, narrow angled, no extension, redundant, bombproof belay anchor. As he fell, all of the force came on one nut at a time in sequence as his protection pulled from the rock. He then broke the single spectra sling stretched 120 degrees horizontally and clipped in “an American triangle” only on one side as it raked across the rough volcanic rock. As he pulled his belayer off the ledge, the single medium sized anchor nut and two small brass nuts exploded from the rock.

Kurt considers his mistake to be his silence. He felt that they should try an easier adjoining route but was silent; he thought the rock looked bad but did not say so and he did not insist on checking his belay anchor and the first placement protecting him above his belay ledge.

The novice alpinists made two additional mistakes. They had told friends where they were going but they did not say, “So, if we don’t make it back by then call the Search and Rescue right away”. And they left their cell phone in the car. (They did not know that the smallest cell phones work very well in the high Oregon Cascades.)

Additional Comments:
“At some point, I made a statement John Wayne would have been proud of - the only way we’ll get through this is Courage.” writes Eric Seyler. Medical personnel are amazed that Eric and Kurt did not die on the mountain from Shock from their terrible injuries. 

The most important thing that can be learned from this accident is how Companions can support each other and prevail over unimaginable hardship.

Eric and Kurt are continuing to recover from their serious injuries and infections.

Report filed by Robert Speik and printed in the 54th edition of ANAM, year 2001
Copyright© 2001 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.





Read more . . .
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering

Smith Rock - AAC: Leader fall turns climber upside down
Smith Rock - AAC: Warning!! ** Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock - protection pulled out
Smith Rock - AAC: WARNING - Belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Inadequate top rope belay
Smith Rock - AAC: Climber injured on the approach
Smith Rock - AAC: WARNING - belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - AAC: Belay error - novice sport climber injured
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock, protection pulled out
Smith Rock - AAC: Fall on rock - poor position, inadequate protection
Smith Rock - AAC: Pulled rock off - fall on rock, failure to test holds, exceeding abilities
Smith Rock - AAC: Belay error - fatal fall on rock

Mount Washington - AAC: Matt and Joanne, Accident on traditional North Ridge Route ends with helicopter rescue
Mount Washington - News: Matt and Joanne, News reports of their serious accident
Mount Washington - AAC: BC and JWS, Leader fall, good belay, self rescue and extraction by helicopter
Mount Washington - AAC: Seifert-Gentz, Report on fatal accident while setting rappel anchor
    Mount Washington - Rock and Ice, Double fatality on Mount Washington
Mount Washington - News: Seifert-Gentz, Oregon tragedy claims two lives
Mount Washington - News: JM, Injured climber rescued from Mount Washington
Mount Washington - AAC: Seyler-Smith, Leader fall, protection pulled out and anchor fails - Epic accident
    Playing Icarus on Mount Washington, an Epic story by Eric Seyler

Climbers swept by avalanche while descending North Sister's Thayer Glacier Snowfield
North Sister - climbing with Allan Throop
North Sister - accident report to the American Alpine Club
North Sister fatal accident news reports
North Sister and Middle Sister spring summits on telemark skis
North Sister, North Ridge by Sam Carpenter
North Sister, the Martina Testa Story, by Bob Speik
North Sister, SE Ridge solo by Sam Carpenter

Climber dies on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Report: R.J. Secor seriously injured during a runaway glissade
     Mount Rainer . . . eventually, with R.J. Secor by Tracy Sutkin
"Mt. Whitney's East Face Route is quicker!"
Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route requires skill and experience
Sierra Club climb on Middle Palisade fatal for Brian Reynolds
Runaway glissade fatal for Mazama climber on Mt. Whitney
Slip on hard snow on Snow Creek route on San Jacinto
Notable mountain climbing accidents analyzed
California fourteener provides an experience
The Mountaineers Club effects a rescue in the North Cascades

  Recent mountaineering accidents in the news
Climber injured by rockfall, rescued by helicopter from Mount Washington, Oregon
Three Mountaineers struck by rock-fall in North Cascades
Solo climber falls from Cooper Spur on Mount Hood
Climber dies on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Climbers swept by avalanche while descending North Sister's Thayer Glacier Snowfield
Wilderness Travel Course Newsletter  this is a large PDF file!
Runaway glissade fatal for Mazama climber on Mt. Whitney
Yosemite's El Capitan tests rescuers' skills
Climbers fall from Mount Hood's Sandy Glacier Headwall
Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Injured climber rescued from Mount Washington
Mt. Washington tragedy claims two climbers
Another Mt. Rainier climber dies on Liberty Ridge
Mt. Rainier climber dies after rescue from Liberty Ridge
Young hiker suffers fatal fall and slide in the Three Sisters Wilderness
North Sister claims another climber
Solo climber Aron Ralston forced to amputate his own arm
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Grisly find: hikers on Broken Top find apparent human remains
Once again, cell phone alerts rescuers of injured climber
Storm on Rainier proves fatal
Mountain calamity on Hood brings safety to the fore!
Fall into the Bergschrund on Mt. Hood, rescuers crash!
Paying the price for rescue
Accidents in North American Mountaineering
Goran Kropp killed while rock climbing in Washington