Forum Index > Trail Talk > Fatality on Descent of Mt Stuart Sunday June 24 2018
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Mikey
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PostTue Jun 26, 2018 6:04 am 
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Seattle man falls to his death on Mount Stuart
Chelan County - Descending a mountain is the most dangerous part of the climb.  Sunday’s death of a Seattle man on Mount. Stuart in Chelan County proved that notion.  Shortly after 11 a.m., Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnet says 32-year-old Varun Sadavarte was descending toward the Cascadian Couloir on the east side of the summit when he lost his footing, was unable to self-arrest with his ice axe and fell several hundred feet down a steep slope landing in rocks.  Other climbers in the area scrambled to help the fallen climber but he was unresponsive.  A Navy Blackhawk helicopter from the Whidbey Island Naval Airbase responded and crews determined that Sadavarte was dead.   Sadavarte’s body and the climbing partner he was with were hoisted into the aircraft.  Chelan County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kent Sisson says the two climbers were inexperienced.
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Schenk
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PostTue Jun 26, 2018 6:43 am 
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RIP Mr. Sadavarte, RIP.

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Nature exists with a stark indifference to humans' situation.
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joker
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PostTue Jun 26, 2018 12:33 pm 
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My condolences to  his  family and friends.

This is a grim reminder that  self arrest with ice axe does not always work - e.g. sometimes the snow is quite hard and if you  don't get the  pick in IMMEDIATELY you'll  be going so  fast  it  will just bounce off. I watched a friend fail to arrest just below  Headlee Pass on Vesper - he did fortunately  manage to  slow himself enough that  he wasn't going  fast enough to be hurt  when he ran into  a rocky area  maybe 20 or so feet  beneath him - luckily he wasn't just  a bit further  on his  traverse when it happened as he'd have slid much  further  before  impact in that  case. And coincidentally, he always used the Cascadian Couloir as a cautionary example of  the  limits  of ice axe arrest, describing how when he and a friend did that  route decades ago, when  they came down  they could see where someone had slid a long ways down the slope, with blood-red snow by a  rock where the  slide mark stopped at bottom. He does not know what the outcome was for that person but in  any case it was clear that  their arrest  effort  had failed.
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DIYSteve
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PostTue Jun 26, 2018 1:10 pm 
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Very sad

I surmise that's the moderately steep snow above the CC, once a glacier remnant. It has a history of accidents.
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thunderhead
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 6:33 am 
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Quote:
This is a grim reminder that  self arrest with ice axe does not always work


practice practice practice!  When you are home watching tv close your eyes and practice snapping your axe from self belay to self arrest.  It aint hard but make it instantaneous and ingrained, like a soldier and his rifle.  Then do it for real on safe practice slopes.  Know that you are not going to arrest on crusty/icy slopes even with practice.
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Malachai Constant
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 6:57 am 
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Soft slushy snow can be as dangerous as hard crusty snow. I slipped descending one of the twin sisters and took a long ride on off a 30’ cliff in full arrest. My partner said I was making a 10’ rooster tail the whole way. Luckily I flew over the moat and landed on my back with the axe still in my hands. Cracked a rib.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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thunderhead
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 7:34 am 
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Quote:
Soft slushy snow can be as dangerous as hard crusty snow.

True.  Good point.
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joker
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 9:30 am 
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Yes to all of the above.  Of course practice.  The friend I  watched fail to  arrest on Vesper chants the  same mantra (and follows his own  advice). In that  case I  suspect it was  that we  had a few inches of slush on  top combined with  the fact that he started sliding face-out so by the time he flipped around to  be face-in he was already moving quite  quickly.
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Randito
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 12:56 pm 
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Very sad. 

FWIW: I think self-arrest is an essential skill to possess -- and much like avalanche companion rescue skills -- one must strive to never need to actually use those skills.  Safer to never slip -- safer to never trigger an avalanche.
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joker
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PostWed Jun 27, 2018 3:45 pm 
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Yes, footwork and self belay as well as being aware of whether snow is balling under your crampons are also important skills.
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wolffie
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PostMon Jul 02, 2018 4:22 pm 
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I fear many of us (perhaps including myself) who traipse around with an ice ax are just kidding ourselves.
Didn't help me much when I broke my ankle.
I have seen it done right:  quick as a cat, landing pick-first in full arrest position, didn't slide an inch.
My accident, and the last one I witnessed, both occurred right when a descent started:  that dangerous transition between ascent (easier) and descent (much trickier and more dangerous).

DON'T RELAX TIL YOU'RE HOME IN BED.
The most dangerous part may be the drive home.
I was first at the scene of a 90 mph wrong-way drunk driver fatality on I-5 yesterday, head-on rollover.  The (unhurt) mom driving the innocent vehicle protected her toddler perfectly: rear-facing car seat in the back.
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DIYSteve
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 8:10 am 
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FWIW, an ice axe arrest has saved my fat ass at least a dozen times. Sometimes a slip happens even when you're doing things right. OTOH, for each set of conditions, there's a critical angle beyond which arresting is very difficult or impracticable. Those are no slip zones.
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DIYSteve
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 8:11 am 
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wolffie wrote:
Didn't help me much when I broke my ankle.*  *  * My accident, and the last one I witnessed, both occurred right when a descent started:  that dangerous transition between ascent (easier) and descent (much trickier and more dangerous). 

Were you wearing crampons?
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AlpineRose
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 1:00 pm 
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Note this is not intended in any way, shape or form to criticize the accident victim.  I'm merely sharing observations from my experience.

A long time ago I helped teach snow travel and ice ax arrest to scrambling students.  imo, I didn't think that one class provided nearly enough experience to make one competent in arresting, particularly not in all types of snow.  I can easily see how someone can attend one arrest class, then go out and get themselves into trouble.

Based on my personal experience it takes more than one 1-day class to become proficient.  That first class should be followed by practice, practice, practice in places with good runout and/or more classes.

My training started a month after moving to WA.  I attended a two-day snow travel course taught by one of WA's mountaineering luminaries.  My first arrest practice was on the steep slopes below the Snow Lake saddle.  A month later, I attended another two-day snow and ice climbing course in Glacier Basin (Monte Cristo) taught by two more mountaineering luminaries.  We practiced on a glacier remnant that is no longer there.  This was followed by another ice climbing class on the Coleman Glacier.  We stayed at the Kulshan Cabin, which gives you an idea how long ago this was.

In the next couple of years, I gained additional experience from winter travel, scrambling and basic climbing courses.  By that time, the ice ax field trips served as refreshers.

I always understood that under some circumstances, arrest would be difficult to impossible.  Better not to fall.  However, good training and lots of practice gives you a better chance if you do fall.  I never did feel comfortable with the idea of arresting while wearing crampons.
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Forum Index > Trail Talk > Fatality on Descent of Mt Stuart Sunday June 24 2018
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