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Mt Rainier (RMI) - Fall, Inadequate Self-arrest effort

June 6, 2002

3 injured on Rainier

Saturday, June 8, 2002


ASHFORD -- Melody Wyman and Charles Grubbs were on their way to get married, climbing the icy flanks of Mount Rainier to reach their own chapel at 14,411 feet. Wyman, 48, and Grubbs, 50, both of Derry, N.H., and their guide, Kurt Wedberg, slid 100 to 150 feet on an icy slope, then dropped 60 feet into a crevasse. Park rangers, other guides and a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter managed to rescue the three.

They were on the Ingraham Direct route, an early-summer variation of the regular Ingraham Glacier climb, which is the most frequently traveled route on the mountain.

Climbers depart from Paradise on Rainier's south side, ascend to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet, cross the Cowlitz Glacier, then head directly up the steep upper Ingraham Glacier to the summit. The route is more direct than the traditional Muir-Ingraham Glacier route that takes climbers across Ingraham Flats and up along the giant rock of Disappointment Cleaver.

Love brought Grubbs and Wyman to the direct route.

Charles "Roddy" Grubbs and Melody Wyman met in the fall of 1999, said her landlord, Glenda Ritchotte. "He told me they had so much in common. They both loved the outdoors," Ritchotte said. "He was just beaming and always having to be somewhere to meet this lady."

Grubbs is a software engineer and consultant. Wyman is a factory worker.

The couple visited Rainier two summers ago, and had hiked to Camp Muir. Grubbs, who worked in Seattle in 1994, said he always wanted to climb the mountain.

"Something inside grabbed me, and I said, 'I want to climb that mountain. I want to do that,'" Grubbs said last night.

So the couple planned a second trip to Rainier. The climb and their wedding plans "just sort of converged," Grubbs said.

On Monday, the two started a five-day Rainier Mountaineering class here. The class makes at least one attempt at reaching the summit, and seven guides and 23 clients were out to do so on Thursday.

They also planned to marry somewhere at Rainier, which Wyman called "the most beautiful cathedral in the world" yesterday.

Marriage on the summit became possible when they learned that their guide, Wedberg, is also a licensed minister. Wedberg is also an experienced climber who has reached Everest's summit and who just returned from a McKinley climb.

The couple and the other members of their team were at 11,500 feet at 7 a.m. Thursday when a gust knocked Wyman down and she began to slide, said park rangers and Jeff Martin, operations manager for Rainier Mountaineering.

Wedberg was able to stop the slide by jabbing his ice ax into the snow, but then Grubbs fell. Unable to hold the party in place, he and his students slid until they reached the crevasse.

"We were all self-arresting down the slope. But we were going too fast. The slope was too steep," Wyman said last night.

"It was terrifying," Wyman said after she and Grubbs were released from St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. "I've never been so scared in my life. I thought Charles was dead."

In fact, she thought she was the lone survivor.

"I was screaming for everybody, but there was no answer," she said.

Wedberg, in a separate interview, told KIRO-TV that he regained consciousness in the crevasse. "The only thing I knew was my ankle was sprung, and I just knew I had to get out."

He checked on Wyman and Grubbs, who had minor injuries, then started climbing. Another Rainier Mountaineering guide met him at the lip of the crevasse. The couple was flown from the mountain by helicopter by early afternoon.

"I don't think we ever thought we'd fall into a crevasse," Grubbs said in Ashford. "But we knew that approximately half the people who attempt to summit don't make it."

Wyman fractured an ankle, and Grubbs had less serious head injuries. Wedberg was able to walk down the mountain with help.

The couple will leave Monday for a Hawaiian honeymoon. They still plan to marry, but not in a cathedral in the sky. "We'll probably spend the first two days down by the beach," Grubbs said.

Comments - The RMI guide involved is not listed as certified in any discipline by the AMGA, or as being certifed by exam in any discipline by the USMGA. It is fortunate that this happened on Rainier where many other RMI guides were readily available.

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