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brad

Fatality on Snow Creek Wall

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Bummer...,

 

 

Chelan County Search and Rescue personnel this (wed) morning recovered the body of a 37 year old Canadian woman who fell to her death yesterday (tue) evening near Leavenworth. Sergeant Kent Sisson says Amy R. Stein of Squamish, British Columbia fell off a ledge and into a steep ravine while attempting to avoid a large rock falling from above her head. Sisson says the other four members of the hiking-climbing party advised they had descended from the Orb route of the Snow Creek Wall earlier in the afternoon and were hiking down from the base. Stein was the lead hiker on the descent when a large rock broke free above her. Sisson says she fell an estimated 70 to 100 feet and was pronounced deceased as rescuers arrived on the scene.

 

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wow, and not the first such fatality up there either? seem to recall someone getting killed by goat-induced rockfall on the descent a few years back?

 

valar morghulis.

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Hi, I was in the party and am writing an incident report. Does anyone have information for John (Race?) who was our first SAR on the scene. He's a local guide. I need to talk to someone very familiar with Snow Creek so that I describe the location of the accident accurately.

 

Thank you so much to the many volunteers and other members of the community who came out. It was amazing to see all the headlamps coming up the trail, knowing that Amy was going to be tended to with care that night (after the heli couldn't get in until after dark).

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John works here:

 

Northwest Mountain School

P.O. Box 329 • Leavenworth, WA 98826 • phone: 509-548-5823 • fax: 320-388-5775

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Thanks. Does anyone have a topo/good quality pic of the lower half of Orbit?

 

I'm sure I could get off the couch and dig through the car for the guidebook but I'm truly not feeling like it.

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Thanks. Does anyone have a topo/good quality pic of the lower half of Orbit?

 

I'm sure I could get off the couch and dig through the car for the guidebook but I'm truly not feeling like it.

 

A quick web search got me this: http://bit.ly/10B02v0 though it doesn't show the descent gully very well, unfortunately.

 

Are you still trying to get a hold of John? I just texted him to let him know. Really sorry to hear of your loss. I empathize completely as we are all too familiar with losing friends in the mountains here in Leavenworth lately....

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Hello,

 

I was on Orbit that afternoon as well, in fact I believe my partner and I were at the same belay right before this accident occurred. I'm sure my story isn't the most accurate, as what we saw was only bits and pieces of events leading up to (what I assume was) the incident. I'd like to share what information I saw, even if it had absolutely nothing to do with the actual fall.

 

My partner Sean and I started up the Snow Creek trail late in the day, assuming we could fly up Orbit in the afternoon as most slower parties would have started much earlier. When we got to the base of the scramble to the first belay it was around 3:15PM, by the time we had racked, scrambled, and climbed the first pitch and found ourselves below the 5.2 ramps it was around 3:45PM. We became aware that there were not one, but two parties on the pitch above us. It was unclear whether they were a group of 5 friends, or if it was 2 different groups, one of 2 in front, and one of 3 behind. I led the pitch of easy 5th up to the slung rock belay under the roof to evaluate our chances of passing these parties. When I got to the belay there were two girls there (out of the party of 3) and their leader (Amy I believe) had already led the next pitch. The two girls were very nice and were talking of how windy and cold it had gotten since they started climbing. They were also a bit concerned about the descent and I reassured them that it was relatively straight forward by alpine standards if done in the daylight (many cairn's, well travelled, etc).

 

I belayed my follower up to our anchor as the two girls were preparing to follow the pitch ahead of us. At this point it was clear to my partner and I that we were not going to be able to pass this party and the next, so after a bit of talk we decided to descend from where we were and grab hamburgers instead of waiting an hour at each belay for the next 5 pitches. It was about 4:25. We rappelled from that anchor and were down in two rope lengths on a 70m.

 

As we reached the base we looked up and saw that the party of 3 had started rappelling from the pitch above. They must have decided they were going too slow to finish in the light and decided to bail.

 

What we saw next, I assumed is what led to the tragedy that occurred, but I could be completely mistaken.

 

As the first person was rappelling, who I identified to be the 3rd climber in their party (last to reach the final belay), we noticed there were no safety knots tied in the end of the rope. The rappel position was horrendous, with about 25 feet of traversing necessary under a roof to reach the previous anchor, all above another roof with the ends of the rope dangling off the edge and out of sight. We watched the rappel for a minute, but it looked like the climber had everything under control, so we continued packing our gear and headed to climber's right to stash gear at the base of Iconoclast for our climb the next day (Wednesday). As we were walking away from the base, we heard yelling coming from the party, but it seemed like communication, not desperation. This seemed concordant with the amount of verbal communication we heard from them while on-route.

 

We stashed our gear at the start of Remorse and headed down the climbers trail, crossed the logs, regained the Snow Creek trail and tried to get a visual on how much progress they had made on rappel. Neither my partner or I were able to locate anybody in the party on the wall. We looked at the belay they were bailing from. We looked at the belay we bailed from. We looked lower, and lower, and lower, and higher. Nothing. We didn't see any ropes, or any people. We figured they had made good time and gotten down safely, or were out of sight at a belay, perhaps behind a rock or a tree on their way down. We didn't hear any communication after that yelling.

 

So we ran down the trail and got dinner, drove back up Icicle Creek road, and passed the trailhead parking lot to see a huge search and rescue operation mounting. We pulled into the parking lot and asked what had happened and were told that there was a female climber on Orbit who had fallen. We shared what we knew with the SAR team and offered any help we could give. My partner is a WEMT and I have no formal medical training. They said they would call on us if help was needed that night, but declined immediate assistance as they had 20+ paramedics, SAR personnel and sheriffs on scene already.

 

We assumed this information meant that the climber who we saw rappelling in those circumstances had gone off the ends of her rope as a result of a slip while doing that traversing rappel. This could be completely wrong. The story of rockfall and a 70-100 foot fall means they got down off the route safely. My partner and I are totally confused and very saddened by the situation.

 

My thoughts and condolences go out to Amy and her friends and family. I'm very sorry for your loss.

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Sorry to hear about the accident. This is the topo that I've drawn up over the years. The topo in Selected climbs is incorrect because it was based on a photo taken from a suboptimal angle.

 

Kurt

 

Orbit.jpg

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Hi Chad, your assumption is incorrect. We had knots in the end of our ropes for each rappel. You couldn't see them from where you were. We were able to rappel safely down but loose rock on the walk down swept Amy over a ledge 20-30 feet.

 

I'm sorry you're connected with the accident, and it was nice to meet you at the belay station. The accident happened after we safely rappelled the route, anchor to anchor. We were a party of 5, so the comms you heard were us letting the party of two ahead of us know that we had decided to bail off.

 

Thank you, sincerely, for responding to the SAR. We were blown away by the response from the community and a contingent will be joining me to return to the accident site. Feel free to get in touch - please. It helps for me to talk about it and it helps others to get detail.

 

Hello,

 

I was on Orbit that afternoon as well, in fact I believe my partner and I were at the same belay right before this accident occurred. I'm sure my story isn't the most accurate, as what we saw was only bits and pieces of events leading up to (what I assume was) the incident. I'd like to share what information I saw, even if it had absolutely nothing to do with the actual fall.

 

As we reached the base we looked up and saw that the party of 3 had started rappelling from the pitch above. They must have decided they were going too slow to finish in the light and decided to bail.

 

What we saw next, I assumed is what led to the tragedy that occurred, but I could be completely mistaken.

 

As the first person was rappelling, who I identified to be the 3rd climber in their party (last to reach the final belay), we noticed there were no safety knots tied in the end of the rope. The rappel position was horrendous, with about 25 feet of traversing necessary under a roof to reach the previous anchor, all above another roof with the ends of the rope dangling off the edge and out of sight. We watched the rappel for a minute, but it looked like the climber had everything under control, so we continued packing our gear and headed to climber's right to stash gear at the base of Iconoclast for our climb the next day (Wednesday). As we were walking away from the base, we heard yelling coming from the party, but it seemed like communication, not desperation. This seemed concordant with the amount of verbal communication we heard from them while on-route.

Edited by westofjess

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Thanks Kurt. We rapped from the station below the "NO" in your topo and the accident happened in the gully at the bottom.

 

Sorry to hear about the accident. This is the topo that I've drawn up over the years. The topo in Selected climbs is incorrect because it was based on a photo taken from a suboptimal angle.

 

Kurt

 

Orbit.jpg

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