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Broken Top - Fall on Snow - NW Ridge

September 19, 1999

This is the report from the 2000 edition of
"Accidents in North American Mountaineering":

FALL ON HARD SNOW, INEXPERIENCE
Oregon, South Cascades, Broken Top

On September 19 in the Three Sisters Wilderness area, Bonnie Lamb (39) was ascending a volcanic talus and scree ridge on Broken Top when she came to a short, steep section of surface-softened hard-snow near the 9,175 south summit. She slipped and rocketed about 300 yards down the slope coming to a stop in the rough scree below. Unconscious for 15 minutes and with a severely injured scalp and nose, she was aided by climber Vince Hudson, a former medic, who described her fall as follows: "Originally she was sliding just flat. Then she went over a rock ledge and started to tumble, head over heels, and started picking up speed. Then she went over another ledge and I could see her head hit it. I couldn't believe how fast she was going. It was just like you throw a Raggedy Ann doll off a cliff. She seemed [to be going] 60 to 70 mph easy."

Analysis:

Surface-softened hard-snow slopes have claimed many innocent victims. An ice ax quickly used could have stopped the initial slide. Modern ultralight ice axes are a good companion on spring hikes and climbs. Had somebody not witnessed her fall, she might not have survived.

(Source: Robert Speik)

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