Three Finger Jack - Fall - South Ridge
July 23, 2005
There are links to supplementary materials at the bottom, following the news reports.
Summary - On July 23, 2005 Kathryn Michele Tinnesand (Katie) was descending Three Fingered Jack with two partners and fell at about 2pm. She was below the section known as the "crawl", which is where most parties unrope. While the climbing from there down is not difficult it is very exposed, and she slipped in a bad location. She fell approximately 700' to the bottom of the west face.
Katie - Katie was 23, had recently joined Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit (CMRU) and had been an active member of the OSU Mountain Club during her undergraduate studies, which she had recently completed. She was currently a graduate student and perhaps less involved with the Mountain Club than in the past. She was a solid rock climber at Smith Rock and had climbed routes up to 5.9. The previous weekend she had participated in a CMRU training exercise on Mt Washington and had done very well.
The Climb - She was climbing with two friends, one who was very experienced and another one who was not all that experienced. The trip was not officially part of any particular organization. The three had reached the summit and returned past the crawl. The summit pitch and the crawl are the two places where most groups rope up. The rest of the route is typically climbed unroped and is not very difficult, but does have significant exposure in numerous locations. Above the crawl the three had encountered a large Mazamas group and had actually found it more efficient to climb all of the route unroped, which was within their abilities. By the time of the accident all of the most difficult climbing was behind them.
The Fall - Katie was about 300' south of the crawl when she slipped on some loose gravel. (Descending from the crawl there is a step of 8' or so and then a notch. The notch is where she fell. Photo) The fall followed a gully which rolls over a large cliff. This is more or less the same location of the 1997 "Fall on Snow" accident, although there is little similarity beyond the consequence of falling in this location.
The Response - Katies partners immediately called for a Life Flight helicopter and the 1042 National Guard from Salem. LifeFlight arrived and shuttled rescuers to the scene. It was evident she had not survived. She had fallen the full length of the west face and Jefferson County Search and Rescue was able to reach her by walking up a gully without needing any technical mountaineering skills. They transported the body to the trailhead.
There were conflicting reports about a second party, or part of one, attempting to climb down to help. From the most reliable report it seems that another party of four was on their way down and decided or agreed to traverse at the bottom of the mountain in an effort to make visual contact with Katie. They descended the standard route but at least one slip occured at the base when they tried to scramble up to a point where they could see her. Apparently the group was not wearing helmets, putting them at additional risk of rockfall at the bottom of the face.
Lessons - This is not an accident where anything was clearly done wrong. It was a simple slip in the wrong place. The only lessons and conclusions are indirect ones. One is that climbers should keep in mind that technically easy sections can be seriously exposed with serious consequences. Don't become complacent, especially after the hardest part of the route is behind you. We don't know if Katie was being complacent or over confident, and never will. But when looking at any collection of accidents such as this one it seems to be something worth keeping in mind.
A second lesson comes from the reports that another group (without helmets) attempted to reach Katie from below, resulting in at least one near fall. This highlights the importance of a very fundamental rule which is very easy to forget in a true emergency - never endanger the rescuer(s). This group no doubt was anxious to try to help and there is inevitably a feeling of urgency. It is always better to stop and evaluate the situation and ensure the safety of yourself as well as any others near by.
Prepared by Jim Frankenfield, July 27, 2005. Input and reviews were received from a number of people with direct knowledge of one aspect or another of the incident. Updated July 30 to clarify the role of the other group of four which assisted from below after their descent and to add the two photographs.
Climbing accident kills OSU student
By Jennifer Moody
ALBANY — An Oregon State University student died in a climbing accident Saturday afternoon on Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area.
Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said the name of the 23-year-old woman is being withheld until her family can be notified.
Mueller said the woman was with four other hikers on the South Ridge trail of the popular crags, which are just north of the Santiam Pass at the eastern edge of Linn County.
The group had made the summit and was on its way back at about 2 p.m. when the accident occurred, Mueller said.
"She fell about 700 feet," Mueller said. "They were in an open area, where there was nothing to anchor to ... somehow she got too close to the edge and she fell."
A second group of climbers, unrelated to the first, saw the accident from about 400 yards away. A man with that group tried to help and slipped over the edge himself, but was able to climb back up and was not injured, Mueller said.
A climber with an unrelated group did manage to make his way down to where the victim lay about an hour after her fall, Mueller said, but it was not clear whether he was with the group that saw the accident.
Climber killed on Three Fingered Jack
A 23-year-old Hillsboro woman died while climbing on Three-Fingered Jack mountain in Linn County, authorities there said.
Kathryn Michele Tinnesand was with a group who had finished the climb at around 2 p.m. Saturday. Tinnesand was returning down a trail when she fell about 700 feet from a ledge, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said.
Search and rescue crews from Linn and Jefferson counties brought Tinnesand out of the Mount Jefferson wilderness area.
Other accident reports from Three Fingered Jack:
Three Fingered Jack Information