Damnation Peak Winter Scramble - Situations Come in Threes

Due to avalanche danger higher on ridge, we turned back. It was at this point that several issues immediately arose.
David Shema David Shema
Safety Committee
March 14, 2018
Damnation Peak Winter Scramble - Situations Come in Threes

Damnation Peak, North Cascases - April 15

Winter Scramble Trip Leader


Due to avalanche danger higher on the ridge (we hit wind deposition at 3900' on the ridge with 40 degree slopes either side), I elected to turn the group back. The descent to Damnation Creek was steep in places, but mostly in the 20-30 degree range. As soon as we turned around, several issues immediately rose.

#1: It was discovered that one winter scrambler had lost his ice ax off his pack somewhere on the ascent. The snow was hard but doable to kick steps for the descent, and he made it down without slipping.

#2: Another scrambler, while proficient on ascent on steep snow was exceptionally tentative and slow on the descent, VERY SLOWLY backing down most of the upper half of the ridge, mostly on slopes in the 20-25 degree range with no appreciable hazard. Even backing down, the technique was so poor as to make me worried that she was going to slide out of her steps. She needed to rely on self belay so she didn't slide into a tree at times. It took considerable coaching to get her to turn and face down hill and plunge step in balance on even the easiest of slopes.

#3: A third scrambler developed significant problems with his IT Band on his left leg. He is a physician and knew how to stretch/massage his leg to decrease the pain, but the condition caused significant delays on the return trip as he had to repeatedly stop to rub and stretch his leg.

Lessons Learned

There were no injuries to anyone as a result of the trip, but had we completed the ascent, we would have been on steeper slopes covering much more distance. Any three of these could have led to a more serious incident.

We pretty much never saw any of this coming. Everyone on the trip was a scrambling graduate, most with a number of years of experience.

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