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The Climbing Club • View topic - Vesper

The Climbing Club

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 Post subject: Vesper
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 12:18 pm 
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One-Glove

Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2002 7:44 pm
Posts: 306
Location: Seattle
KAROOMPH! Not the sound you want to hear in an Alpine setting. A huge slab of snow 5 feet in front of me just gave way, as Eric Gratz fifteen feet below me on the Vesper Glacier and I now at the very top of the glacier watched in horror. The slab slid down the bare rock and underneath the glacier beneath my feet. "Let's get the hell off this thing!" I shouted and made my way as quickly as possible to the exit point off the glacier I had been pursuing as the ice creaked beneath me. Eric noted while laughing nervously, "holy crap, that scared the crap out of me, and you were the one right next to it." "Yeah I think I just lost my bowels. I can hear the ice moving, I have to get down." I responded, still moving to the edge. KAROOMPH! Again that same noise, but this time I was falling straight down, riding the glacier wave into the darkness of the belly of the glacier. In that four or five seconds a thousand thoughts about death raced through my mind, and I could painlessly feel my limbs being battered, my head hitting the ice, and my stomach being pounded, as I waited for the crushing blow that I knew would kill me. Not today though, I stopped some thirty feet dowslope from where I fell, under the glacier, clinging to wet rock and mud, and an ice arete. The rock sloped sharply down from where I was deep under the glacier, ten more feet and there would likely be no escape. "Are you alright!?" came the shout from Eric as he was now running and jumping to get off this murderous sheet of ice. "I'm alright," I responded as convincingly as I could, but as I tried to crawl uphill out from under the ice to the rock refuge my left leg wouldn't hold my weight, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. I found I was still holding my ice axe, which helped as I clawed up to a point where I could comfortably lay down. I was shaking, hyperventilating, and getting nauseous as the classic symptoms of shock swpet over me. I told Eric, "Im going into shock," and tried to fight it off.

Only four hours before I fell Eric and I were already feeling a bit pessimistic about the climb, the falling rain coming in direct contradiction to the "partly cloudy" forecast. The forecast called for improving weather, however, so we pressed on up the Sunrise Mine trail through forest, meadows, and boulder fields. We just hoped the sun would come out in time to at least partially dry out the north face route which was our goal. Being a bit out of shape I spent the time going up to Headlee Pass trying to catch up to Eric, who stopped occasionally to scare awaythe snaffles with some falling rocks. We reached the campsites at the lake between Speary and Vesper in reduced visibility, so we got out the compass and chose a likely gap to shoot for. We had chosen wisely, but had to downclimb some third class mossy, wet rock to gain the glacier and cross it to get to our route. At the glacier we discussed where we were going and how to get there. By now the rain had stopped and sunlight could sometimes be seen. Eric said that in this late season hard ice there was no way either of us could arrest the other's fall,and he felt comfortable stepping in the large, flat suncups. So we went unroped the hundred yards to the other side to discover a moat much larger than anything we had anticipated. We talked about digging a bollard to rappel into the hole, going back and doing the scramble route, and ascending farther up the glacier to look for another place to exit. We could see some ice fingers that extended to the rock farther up and decided to go for it. We had to climb around a big crevasse, but the going was easy and I didn't think anything of it. The going was a little tougher as I made my way across a snowbridge that in retrospect was really sketchy. Eric followed until I got to the ice that allowed an easy exit from the glacier when the shelf above me gave way, shortly followed by myself.

Once we were in a safe position, Eric examined my injuries, specifically my left leg which had developed a big lump that I could see through my polypro long underwear. After his checkup it became apparent my leg wasn't broken, but my ribs on my right side hurt like hell. It was pure fire when I tried to breathe too deeply, and sharp pain when breathing normally. Moving my right arm also became a painful task. I told Eric to get me my jacket, aspirin, water, and some food. I took some time to rest and ice my larger bruises, as we talked about what might what have happened if we were roped, if we tried something else, if I hadn't been wearing my helmet, etc. The conclusion was that I was very lucky, and even though it probably wouldn't have helped much in this situation, I resolved to always rope up on a glacier, no matter how small or unbroken. The most difficult task was just beginning however. We had to decide on an exit plan, and with the option of continuing up a third class gully or descending the glacier, we chose to go up the gully to regain the scramble route. Using my ultra-long iceaxe as a walking stick, and with Eric carrying both our packs, I spent one of the most painful half-hours of my life making my way to easier ground. My entire left side from my shoulder to my ankle was badly scraped and bruised and my rib inury seared everytime I had to grab a hold with my right hand. At the top of the gully we reached the sun and smooth slabs that didn't hurt nearly so badly to walk on as the choss below us. We still had to go uphill to reach the boot path of the scramble route, which was no fun, but once there we met a group who gave me much stronger Ibuprofen to supplement my weak generic aspirin. With much stronger drugs in my system, and the feeling that I could likely walk out, we moved with more confidence and made our way back over Headlee Pass, down the scree slopes, through meadows and forest and finally back to the car. I actually felt very limber and could breathe easier after the few hours of walking so decided to drive myself, and no longer felt so intent about making my way directly to a hospital.

I had x-rays taken last night after the climb and was told that I had a crack in one of my lower ribs, but with the perkocet the doctor prescribed me, I'm feeling pretty good. My father made a great series of images describing the fall in detail which I'll post when I get the chance. Right now, I'm just thankful to be alive, and that Eric was there to help me.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 12:28 pm 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2002 6:39 pm
Posts: 1945
Location: Bashing Brush
Stay away from Vesper Glacier. Check. Is that the glacier just above Copper Lake?

Heal quickly, Aaron!


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 Post subject: Vesper
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 12:46 pm 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Mon Sep 30, 2002 11:28 am
Posts: 440
Location: Seattle
Aaron,

I'm glad you're OK. That's a frightening accident.

Get well soon!

-Steve

P.S., You can save those extra oxycodone (percocet) pills for
your mountain first aid kit!


Last edited by Stephen Ramsey on Fri Sep 26, 2003 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 1:15 pm 
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An Old Geezer
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Damn! I'm glad you're ok... good thing another big block didn't follow you down! I remember that moat being pretty interesting last September when Colin and I were there.

Get well soon!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 2:04 pm 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2002 10:28 am
Posts: 529
Location: Fish Lab/Baker
Jesus, that scared ME! Glad nothing horrible happened. Heal fast.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 2:29 pm 
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One-Glove

Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2002 7:44 pm
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Location: Seattle
My dad made this at the clinic while I was being x-rayed. A fairly realistic 2-d view. Ignore that it was made on a Viagra notepad.
Image


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2003 3:04 pm 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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 Post subject: accident
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 3:51 pm 
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UW Climber
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Location: Cascadia unite!

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"I felt a sense of liberation and strength knowing that this was an effort worth trying with all my heart" -Lynn hill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:07 pm 
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Alpine Bod
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 7:05 pm 
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One-Glove

Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2002 7:44 pm
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