On June 18, 2006, I approached Lundin's West ridge through the Commonwealth Basin, and managed to keep my boots dry as we crossed Commonwealth Creek running high with snow melt. The weather was improving, and I was excited to climb this well known ridge high-point. A couple of hours later, I was very lucky to survive an unroped fall while scrambling just a few vertical feet below my rope partner. He had topped-out on the scramble, and was looking for a location to build our climbing anchor. A large block broke loose, and the initial fall of 20-25' broke my ankle and wrist, and rendered me unconscious, tumbling down the mountain. After tumbling about 100', I finally came to rest above a steep snow slope, wedged into a life-saving moat. My climbing team tended to my injuries, and initiated a rescue operation that led to me being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. I have no memories from the accident, and must rely on accounts from other members of our climbing party.
Rob Crapo was killed in nearly the same location
In the spring of 2011, I found this nwhikers.net Lundin trip report
. The TR thread includes a discussion about a Mountaineers climb leader, Rob Crapo, who was killed by an unroped fall in 1997, very close to the same location where I fell.
Accidents in North American Mountaineering 1998 account
On September 10, Rob Crapo (37) successfully summitted Lundin Peak (6057) at 1330 with six members of the Seattle Mountaineers. Rob, an experienced climber with an extensive resume of climbs, was leading the trip. Peter Babler and Brendan Williams were rope leaders. The remaining four participants in the climb were students in the basic climbing course.
On the descent, the party returned to the platform on the West Ridge where they had left their packs. Rob decided it was better for the party to rappel over a rock step there, rather than down-climb. Red webbing on a nearby tree indicated that other climbers had rappelled there. Rob set up a single rope rappel. Peter Babler and one of the Basic Students rappelled first, and as the third member started to rappel, Rob asked him to tell the other party members to move away from the bottom of the rappel.
While the others rappelled, Rob moved about 25 feet west on the platform, away from the rappel station. What happened next was somewhat unclear, as it appeared that he was either down-climbing or traversing to get a better look at the students on rappel. He was slightly below the platform when he remarked "This is crap" referring to the quality of the rock. Moments later, at 1455, a large section of rock broke loose. Rob fell along with the rock. More rock and debris were torn loose in the ensuing rock slide, and Rob was tossed end over end among the tumbling boulders. He fell approximately 125 feet before coming to a stop. Peter and the student ran to get out of the path of the falling rock, but Peter was struck several times sustaining injuries to his right thigh, left arm, back, and right wrist...
...party member Neil Wachter used their phone to place another call to 911 and describe Rob's condition in detail. He was told that two MAST Back Hawk helicopters were being dispatched from Ft Lewis...
..Rob's condition started to deteriorate quickly around 1630...
The section that Rob was down-climbing was not particularly challenging, and well within his abilities. This area is known for its poor rock quality. (Source: Barbara McCann, Climbing Committee Chair, Seattle Mountaineers)
Seattle Mountain Rescue filed a report here
. Scroll down to the Sept 20, 1997 accident report.
Take Extra Care on this Climb
I want to alert other climbers to potential danger as you scramble near the start of the Lundin West ridge technical climb. Please use extra care in that area. We approached from the Commonwealth Basin, and I think Rob's party came in from Cave Ridge.
While recovering from my injuries during the summer of '06, I came across this photo posted by Sergio Verdina. It shows some unusual fractured rock
This area seems to have more than its share of loose rock related accidents, and it's interesting that Sergio posted this.
Sergio's Lundin TR
Here are a few general scrambling tips:
- When in doubt, wear your helmet. The Harborview neurosurgeon said mine saved my life.
- Test all holds, and be extra careful when pulling out on any hold.
- Avoid unnecessary risk when scrambling or climbing near loose rock. Our climb leader scrambled up a less elegant 2nd class ramp. My rope partner and I chose a more direct, 3rd class line.
- Never take any climb for granted, especially the ones that are "easy."
Special Thanks to the Rescuers!
Many thanks to my climbing team, the Seattle Mountain Rescue
, and the Whidbey Island NAS Search and Rescue
for attending to my injuries and getting me flown off that mountain within hours after my accident!
I owe my current health to their skill and dedication.