Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber

      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

      We have upgraded to new forum software as of late last year, and it makes everything here so much better!  It is now much easier to do pretty much anything, including write Trip Reports, sell gear, schedule climbing related events, and more. There is a new reputation system that allows for positive contributors to be recognized,  it is possible to tag content with identifiers, drag and drop in images, and it is much easier to embed multimedia content from Youtube, Vimeo, and more.  In all, the site is much more user friendly, bug free, and feature rich!   Whether you're a new user or a grizzled cascadeclimbers.com veteran, we think you'll love the new forums. Enjoy!
Sign in to follow this  
hanman

[TR] Mt Stuart - Complete Nort h Ridge 8/2/2009

Recommended Posts

Trip: Mt Stuart - Complete Nort h Ridge

 

Date: 8/2/2009

 

Trip Report:

My long time friend and part time spiritual adviser (Stephen Packard) and I decided a few months ago to do the CNR on Stuart. The date was August 1-3 2009. Having been there last year, we knew it would go quickly. Having not been up the Stuart Lake approach, we went in through the Ingalls trail rather than crashing around in the supposed brush. Dispensing with the numerous crappy passes in 90 degree swelter, we found ourselves situated at the base of the NR bivy with light hearts and ample energy for the upcoming foray. The general idea was to climb the north ridge, descend sherpa glacier, camp another night at the bivy, and walk out the next day in victorious style.

 

The climb went well, my earlier trip made route finding no issue, and the Gendarme was climbed with vigorous whimpers and sobbing in my usual alpine offwidth rigor. Stephen really did well on P1 layback hand crack. In 8.5 hours, we reached the summit, not bad for a couple of old guyz.

 

We met with a couple of folks on the summit, bid our farewell, and continued east to locate the Stuart/Sherpa Col. Recent reports indicated that the glacier was still in enough to get past the schrund.

 

We rapped from some slings at gully top, then downclimbed to a steep rap at a significant boulder above the head of the glacier. Stephen remarked that the rap was an ugly one. Strike one. As we approached the boulder, it became apparent that this was a very recent cord, in excellent shape. We both inspected the cord for placement and cuts, as we have done in many instances of Cascade alpine climbing for the last 20 years. Rapping off singular alpine anchors has always given me the willies, but this one passed the test, no worse than many we encountered. And no better. Strike two. I stayed clipped to the cord as I fed the rope through a previously tied bunny ear figure 8, with Stephen’s assistance. Uneventfully, Stephen rapped over the steep section, carefully sidestepping large loose tombstones just below the rappel point. Due to the meltwater trickle and distance involved, I didn’t hear him call off rappel, but made the assumption as rope went slack for a few seconds. My turn- automatic setup one two buckle my shoe complete with double checks and visual verification-similar to one million times before in rain, sleet, snow, and dark of night. Prior to weighting the rope, a brief internal glimpse of an old rescue video starring falling climbers tumbling down blocky horror went through my brain- ugly rappel indeed…Pushing this thought away, I weighted the rope and descended about 10 feet to a group of large loose rocks. Strike three. I disengaged a few errant loops of rope from the pile of rocks, and in doing so, slipped a couple feet towards the steeper gritty watercourse. Another 5 feet of descent, and the strangest pulse and vibration came from the anchor, followed by nothingness. Head over heels and upside down, I had time for NONONOWHATTHEFU as I made initial impact. Continuing to slide, an avalanche of respectably sized stones traveled with, around, and over me. This has to be the most violent thing I have ever experienced. Akin to being beaten by an army of crank smoking thugs wielding pressure treated 4x4’s, hours of physical beating were accelerated into just a few seconds. As I came to a grinding halt, the confused image of the underside of a glacial moat swept over me. I had fallen into a moat. As the grating sounds stopped, I was immediately overwhelmed with embarrassment and deep sadness for my wife and two children. This was certainly not in The Plan. Seconds ticked by, and I seemed alive enough to roll over and inelegantly exit the (thankfully) open throat of my captor. I recall hearing an uneven hoarse voice saying to Stephen “I think I’m going to need some help here”. Perhaps a bit understated. I had fallen 40 feet from a nearly vertical wall, then another 30 feet in the broken rock gully. On Sherpa Glacier. Far from Help.

 

Standing up, quick assessment revealed limbs intact, minimal blood loss, missing approach shoe, and terrible stabbing hip and lower back pain. Stephen got me into a down vest and had me stand on a rain jacket with my recently non booted foot. Unbelievably, my glasses remained on my face and were unscratched. He regained his composure and went up through the ice to retrieve both shoe and rope. Returning with a well formed textbook 70 meter Klusterfook knot, soaking wet and filthy, the shoe was not to be found. Being a fervent fan of cramponing in rock shoes, he helped me into mine and readied himself to belay me down the upper Sherpa glacier.

 

Stepping out onto the snow brought exquisite blinding pain of the show stopper quality. It had to be done. Seemingly endless torture with a break at each rope length to allow Stephen to descend and reset. At some point, he called down indicating that my shoe was alive and well some 500 feet below the ill fated rappel. We slowly gained on the rock knob above the schrund. This would undoubtedly involve a roped rap with a painful stepover of the schrund, now melted away to leave a black hollow gash we would soon need to navigate. Stephen set up a nut rap anchor in a crack up high, then coaxed our sodden rope down towards the schrund. Not warming to the thought of rapping from even ¾” bolts, let alone a couple small nuts, he somehow convinced me of the requirement, and I started down. Waves of nausea passed over me as the stabbing bastard attached to my hip continued the crusade. I reached the schrund with about a foot of rope left over. Glad we didn’t come with the 60M. A bonus round of ever steepening ice runnels and a couple of near trips got us to the toe of Sherpa Glacier.

 

I refused to go further at this point, and he reluctantly agreed. Time for an updated plan. We would kick out a bivy spot here on the rocky shoulder. He would descend to our camp at the base of N. Ridge, eat, sleep, wake early and head on out to get some help. He later informed me that several more crap anchor raps were needed to do this as night fell. I’m sure glad he made it down in reasonable safety.

 

With profound sadness at the temporary loss of my companion, I settled in for a bivy with some granola, gu pack, and a couple power bars. Stephen also filled a couple water bottles and left his belay jacket. The wind rose as darkness came, bringing the cold air off the ice. The singular method I could use to lay down was face down in the dirt, arms at the side. Any deviation from this resulted in extraordinary pain. I would have sold my soul to a life of indentured servitude with the North Koreans for a handful of Vicodin. It seemed like I slept 5 minutes, and then awoke to full body shivers for 20. Needless to say, the night was a long one. Swarms of mosquitoes were present, but strangely, they did not feel the need to extract my blood that night. The sun came up at last, and revealed a profoundly negative consequence of my cozy perch. Stephen had not wanted me to stay here because of the seracs directly above. With the warming sun, it soon became apparent that he was correct. Volleys of rock were released with regularity as the free water flowed on the surface ice. Given that my effective radius of escape was about 10 feet, starting at about 10 am, I stood up, ready to dash this way or that if needed. While the rocks came down all around, I don’t think anything came within 40 feet of my little spot during the whole day. This was fortunate, as my definition of “dash” at this point was about a foot per minute max.

 

At about 1 pm, I heard the unmistakable sounds of chopper blades down valley. Elated, I began jerking my reflective bivy back and forth like a madman. I watched as they searched Colchuck or Argonaut for an hour regardless of my flappings. I felt pretty useless and dejected when they flew off, leaving me with the sound of melting icefalls and my crunchy hip joint. I began preparing for another night out, laying out the sack, filling a water bottle… My mind wandered to alternate possibilities; perhaps Stephen never made it out? Maybe another injured party in the Enchantments? I’m not a dainty fellow by any means, not going to starve to death, but Jeezus, I just want to go home.

 

About an hour went by and then I heard a returning chopping of air. They circled the valley a few times, finally aiming for me. As it turns out, they went back to Leavenworth for more fuel and to get Stephen in an effort to show them where I was located. I resumed the role of the Fukin Insane Mad Flapper, and was genuinely giddy when a red smoke bomb was released in reply. A few more loops, closer and closer. It was windy on the glacier, and I could see the downdrafts push the confounded machine towards the earth. Having never been below such a monstrous device with whirling black blades, I must admit a bit of trepidation as they dropped an anchor shaped chair connected to a hoist cable. An upper torso shoulder strap was presented with an ominous warning sign “TIGHTEN”. Painfully, I mounted this thing and pulled the strap to no avail. The cinch buckle was stuck. Screw it- I grabbed that post like an alcoholic on a fifth, and held on for dear life. Up and away, I watched the bivy recede from view and rapidly become part of a flat brown landscape. My rescuers hoisted me into the cabin, and one attendant (Wade) reached out with a strong and reassuring hand to secure me in. At last I felt safe. Thank you Wade and crew!

 

 

A 15 minute ride led to Central Washington Hospital, home of a very competent Level 2 Trauma Center. XRays, CAT scans, poking, prodding and lots of very nice drugs revealed that my only injuries (ego notwithstanding) were broken lower vertebrae side protrusions, torn muscles, ligaments, and severe bruising left mid back to heel. Suffice to say that everyone including me is amazed that I did not die or sustain life altering disabilities considering the fall dynamics and location. Over a week later, at home and pulling off the scabs while watching bruises turn shades, this is all still quite surreal.

 

Without Stephen’s judgement, drive and actions the outcome may have been much less positive. I’m eternally grateful for his abilities, companionship, and solid character throughout the years. My wife, kids, family and friends have shown great support and love for me through this. Even when they may not understand the reasons we climb, they certainly sense the passion for adventure inherent in our goals. I’m really thankful for this! A very hefty thank you to the 36th Rescue Airlift Group out of Fairchild AFB- you folks put your lives on the line for myself and many others. I don’t think the general public understands the amount of training and expertise required to pull this off. Much Appreciation!!

 

As for causation of accident, I have contemplated the failed anchorage and believe that the loop joining knot got caught on an edge as I slid to one side. This caused slack on one leg of the loop, which was released rapidly as it rotated past the edge. This slack likely transferred to the rear of the rig, where it rolled up and off the protrusion. Ideally, we would have liked to have a backup to the sling, but no real option presented itself upon inspection. That’s not to say that a backup was unavailable, just that in the context of the situation, it was determined to be superfluous. I hope that anyone reading this will consider our alpine anchors just a bit more carefully than you would have before. Shit can and will happen even when everything is done right. Entirely too many accidents recently- take care out there.

 

 

 

Thanks All-

 

 

 

Mark Hanna (Hanman)

 

 

ps- I'll post some photos when out of Percoset daze

 

 

Gear Notes:

Big ass helicopter, patience

 

Approach Notes:

Ingalls trail

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holy shit! A rap like that is something we've all done - many times. Very glad to hear you made it out with, relatively, minor injuries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, thanks for sharing that with us, Mark, and glad you got out of that one in good shape considering the situation.

 

I'm not sure I can fit a big ass helicopter on my harness but maybe I can sneak onto in my partner's pack.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holy crap Mark! I am glad that you made it out ok and are on the path to recovery.

 

Its scary to think that I just came down that same descent recently and did some raps in there as well. Was the rap off a blue piece of cordalette?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the kind words all-

 

Matt-

 

It was a new blue cord with a bunnyear figure eight- I thought you might remember it....

 

Well done on CBR :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad to hear you're going to be okay Mark! Way to hang in there.

 

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's quite the tale Mark, I'm glad you're telling it yourself. When you get around to posting pictures I'd be very interested in seeing what you have of the descent and where the accident happened. I'm trying to square it with my memories of a late September rappel descent of the Sherpa which included rapping over what I think is the same rock step with a sling tied around one of the two contact points of a big boulder on the lip of the rock step. I recalled that as the last rappel we did, with nothing but walking after. It was quite awhile ago.

 

Hope you have a smooth recovery, that's a pretty chilling account.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Off- that's the spot

 

We left a full rack to 4 at the toe of Sherpa and camping gear at the base of NR- any returns of this stuff would be rewarded with copious amounts of :brew: and $$

 

If not, an insignificant fee for getting out expediently

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We'd found new slings tied around the waist of the peanut shaped boulder and evidence the last party had rapped straight down over the edge. It looked like a stupid idea, I easily imagined pulling the whole boulder over the edge on top of me, what with the sloping rock and ball bearing grit base. As we had reset each and every rap anchor (all the same color slings with initials) on the way down from bad crap to solid locations, we untied their sling and relocated it to the contact point, rapping skier's left off the step using a lower angled area where you could keep some weight on your feet. If it's really the same spot, I'm sort of shocked that boulder is still there twenty some years on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My friend Justin and I had finished up with Prusik Peak and were descending the Pass when we saw the heli fly over. Though we weren't sure what was happening, figuared it was a rescue, our thoughts were with the climbing party involved.

Glad to hear you got out okay and are on the mend Mark!

See you out there again soon.

Teresa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow! thanks for the great piece of writing. We can all learn from your experience. Glad you're "OK" and wish you a full a speedy recovery!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, Mark. Surviving a rappel anchor failure and 40/70' fall is really beating the odds. Thanks for sharing your experience.

 

In terms of anchor failure (cord slipping off the boulder), I wonder if webbing would perform better than perlon. I'm seeing more perlon anchors these days, as some people carry cordelettes and use them to make rap anchors. But perlon tends to "roll" off things, while webbing may stick better by providing more surface area contact. This also helps webbing resist cutting better. I think it's still an alpinist trick to have some webbing in the bottom of the pack, in case they have to bail in a spot with unknown anchors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A somewhat similar accident happened to Stefan Feller on Temple Peak in the Enchantments a few years back. He rapped from a single new sling from a "chockstone". Mike Torok rapped first and then when Stefan had his go, the anchor failed and he broke his ankles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad your ok Mark. Processing that event along with consider luck you experienced to (sorta) walk away from it must tie your stomach in knots. I hope you heal fully and quickly and get back to creating quality routes for the rest of us windbags to go play on.

 

Best wishes

 

Darin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I intend to go up there and retrieve their stuff some time over the next few weekends. If somebody does so before I do, please post here so I don't waste a trip. If you want to partner for a daytrip to the Sherpa Glacier, let me know.

 

It goes without saying that I'm glad Mark is gonna be OK and I salute these two gents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hanman is one tuff MFer, one of the only MFers that can take a rock up the ass and sort of walk away from it. This is all due to the Darrington S and M monkey buisness stick up the ass training that the DEA requires to be a goat roper slab-a-dab bush whacker squire creek-big 4-whawetkin-balony-chrome-Roan-dome-spring mountain master.

 

Get well soon!

Shapp

p.s. you are still a midget though

Edited by shapp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heal quick Mark! Thanks for taking the time to tell this tale. The fact that you injected humor into it is amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I failed.

I got a packfull of stuff from the toe of the NR but had to leave it on the trail out due to severe heat exhaustion.

PM me for location.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×