Safety Stories: Near Miss – Unable to Arrest on Snowy Descent of Kangaroo Temple

A participant lost their footing on a snowy descent of Kangaroo Temple, sliding 10-20 feet before stopping.
David Shema David Shema
Safety Committee Member
April 14, 2021
Safety Stories: Near Miss – Unable to Arrest on Snowy Descent of Kangaroo Temple
Kangaroo Temple approach route in 2019, by Julia Syi

As Mountaineers, we are committed to learning from our experiences. We examine every incident that happens on a Mountaineers trip for opportunities to improve the ways we explore and teach. Our volunteer safety committee reviews every incident report and picks a few each month to share as examples of ‘Lessons Learned’. The trip report below describes what happened on this trip, in the leader’s own words, and outlines the lessons the leader has identified. In some cases, we offer additional key learnings from the incident.

Sharing incidents creates an opportunity to analyze specific incidents and also identify larger incident trends. We appreciate every volunteer trip leader who takes the time to share their incidents and near-misses so that others can benefit. We ask that readers engage critically and respectfully in the spirit of sharing and learning.

Kangaroo Temple, North Face  – 3 July



Incident occurred during descent from climb of North Face of Kangaroo Temple. There was more snow cover than anticipated by the trip leader. Steep sections were navigated slowly but safely during ascent.

During descent, all the participants were tired as this was first climb of the year for many. Coming down from Kangaroo Pass towards SR20, a participant lost his footing on a snow section, slipped, and fell some distance (10~20 feet), unable to arrest with his ice ax. He was able to stop next to the rocks.

He declined medical examination and was able to hike out with everyone.

Lessons Learned

As trip leader, I should have had the team members bring crampon or micro spikes. I was asked at the start and offered my opinion that they would not be necessary. Having crampons or micro spikes may have prevented the slip and fall. Fortunately, I had loaned my ice axe to the climber for descent, which hopefully helped in other instances on descent.

The participants were not in best physical shape, given the abbreviated start to the season. Basic graduates do not have the same physical readiness requirement as current students. Leader kept the pace measured for the approach and descent, but the 13-hour day did take its toll towards the end when this occurred.

Lead image of Kangaroo Temple. 

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