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North Sister fall claims climber Brian Jones

The primary purpose of these experience reports and the Annual Report of Accidents in North American Mountaineering is to aid in the prevention of accidents.
Brian C. Jones, 37, on September 24, 2011, slipped on the 35 degree friable volcanic rock slope below the summit and tumbled down about 1,000 vertical feet to his death.

Jones “was scrambling on some of the terrain near his climbing partner and he slipped, started sliding and then cart wheeled down the mountain” according to the Report.

Winds to 60 mph and near-whiteout conditions Sunday prevented authorities from retrieving the body. Brian Jones' body will be recovered when weather permits, possibly in the Spring according to Lane County Search and Rescue Personnel.

Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?
North Sister is a fourth class summit, approached along the top of the south ridge by a faint climbers way high up along the west side of a gendarme called The Camel’s Hump. The route then winds to the east side of a second gendarme, then traverses across an exposed friable 35 degree slope called the "Terrible Traverse" just under the Prouty Pinnacles to a gully called "The Bowling Alley" that leads to the summit blocks. Many groups, equipped with helmets and rock climbing skills, will elect to set a hand line across this traverse and then belay and rappel the loose and often ice covered gully, to the summit.

End of summer thunderstorms had coated the steep volcanic slopes with ice. Slips under these conditions can lead to uncontrollable falls.

Six climbers have died in recent years on North Sister, some from inexperience and a failure to mitigate the high exposure and objective dangers of this old volcano.

Additional Comments:
We do not know the level of technical knowledge and the climbing experience of Brian Jones. He is identified by a friend as an avid hiker.

Report filed by Robert Speik for the 65th edition of ANAM. Published on page 78, Issue 65, Accidents in North American Mountaineering, 2012.
Copyright© 2011 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved


Climber Killed in Fall on North Sister

Climber Killed in Fall on North Sister
Near-Whiteout Prevents Retrieval of Body
By Barney Lerten, KTVZ.COM
September 25, 2011

Winds to 60 mph and near-whiteout conditions Sunday prevented authorities from retrieving the body of a Eugene man who was killed Saturday in a fall near the summit of the North Sister, Lane County officials said.

Deschutes And Lane county dispatchers got a 911 call around 1 p.m. Saturday from a climbing partner who advised that Brian C. Jones, 37, had fallen while climbing the North Sister, said Deputy John Miller, search and rescue coordinator for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.

The climbing partner told authorities that he’d seen Jones fall down the west face gullies near the summit of the 10,085-foot peak.

Miller told The Oregonian that Jones “was scrambling on some of the terrain near his climbing partner and he slipped, started sliding and then cart wheeled down the mountain.”

An Oregon Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was called in to assist in the search and possible rescue, Miller said. The Guard crew spotted a body matching Jones’s description in the search area, but were unable to reach him due to high winds at the 9,000-foot elevation.

“We were able to ascertain his status from the helicopter late in the day, but then the weather started going south on us bad,” Miller said.

Members of Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, and Eugene and Corvallis mountain rescue groups took part in the ground portion of the operation as well, he said.
Ground teams were pushed back Sunday morning by 50 to 60 mph winds and blowing snow creating near-whiteout conditions, Miller said.

“Due to the extreme hazards in the area and lack of visibility, the ground teams returned to their respective agencies until weather improves,” Miller said in a news release Sunday.
Copyright 2011 KTVZ. All rights reserved.

Selected Comment from 10
by bombchaser
"Part of the problem is we need to stop calling this hiking, it is climbing. The North Sister is not a hike, it is a climb. And a very hazardous one at that."


Eugene man who witnessed friend fall on North Sister speaks out
By: Chris McKee

A Eugene man is speaking out and remembering one of his best friends after witnessing him fall to his death in Oregon Cascades over the weekend. Brian Jones, 37, of Eugene died Saturday, September 24th, 2011, when he fell on the west side of the North Sister Mountain.

Friends for 4 years, Brian was hiking the mountain with another Eugene man named Dennis Witten. Over the last few years, both Witten and Jones had hiked through much of the Sisters Wilderness, even scaling the South and Middle Sisters.

This weekend was the first trip the two had ever taken to the North Sister though, and one Witten says they underestimated.

The fall happened around 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, about 6-and-a-half hours into their trip. When the two were near the Summit, they reached a free climb area.

Jones was about 5 to 8 feet from the bottom of the climb when he lost his grip and hit a steep gravel slope. The impact caused a rock slide that dragged Jones off the mountain and a sheer cliff face. Jones fell around 500 feet.

After Jones fell, Witten went to get help, but didn’t get an answer when he called for Brian.

“I called to him and yelled his name and there was no movement, and I stayed there for about 10 minutes unsure of what to do,” said Witten.

“My heart told me go to him but it was definitely life threatening,” said Witten.

He eventually ran two hours back to a trail where he met with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. A hiker he met along the way back to the trail called 9-1-1.

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office contacted Lane County after determining that Jones fell within the eastern border of Lane County. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue later confirmed that Jones was deceased.

Witten says he will not forget his hiking memories with Jones. On his character, Witten says Jones was a funny, adventurous and hardworking father of three.

“Brian lost his life, but he lost it doing something that he loved, and that's really bitter sweet and the lining there is really thin…” said Witten.

“I don't know what as far as scaling mountains is going to be like in the near future, but you know this is something I am going to continue to do, and I know that if the roles were reversed and I know I was the one who lost my life, that he would also continue to do the same,” said Witten.

Witten says the two were more prepared for hiking, more so than climbing, saying the two did not have all of the safety gear they likely should have carried. They also planned for a 13 hour day, but the hike took them much longer because of all of the loose rock.

“Hiking the South Sister and the Middle Sister was nothing compared to the geology of the North Sister,” said Witten. “(It) is extremely dangerous and I just want to point out that if you hike the North Sister to be extremely careful and to allow yourself much more time than you need.”

Jones was 1992 graduate of Springfield High School. According to friends, he had worked at Marathon Coach in Coburg. More recently he was back in school, studying business at the University of Oregon with a plan on graduating by the end of the 2012 school year.

He leaves behind three kids and a longtime girlfriend who friends say he was planning on marrying in early 2012.

Lane County Search and Rescue is trying recover Jones’ body, however, poor weather conditions have hampered efforts so far.

Family members have set up a memorial fund called the “Brian C Jones Memorial Fund” at Pacific Continental bank branches, with the money going to Brian’s three kids. A memorial service is set for Saturday, October 1st, 2011, at 1 p.m. at the HEDCO building on the U of O campus.


Effort to Recover N. Sister Climber's Body Suspended
Rock falls Prove Too Hazardous; Crews Will Return Next Year
By Barney Lerten, KTVZ.COM
September 30, 2011

Another effort to recover the body of a Eugene man who suffered a fatal fall while climbing the North Sister did manage to find him Thursday, but rockfalls made it too dangerous to proceed, authorities said, so they will have to to wait until after next spring’s snowmelt to return and try once again.

Brian C. Jones, 37, fell near the summit of North Sister while climbing with a friend last Saturday. On Thursday, Lane County Search and Rescue returned to the peak to try to recover the body of Jones, spotted by a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew hours after the incident, said John Miller, search and rescue coordinator for the sheriff’s office.

A sheriff’s helicopter supervised and helped with the search by air while two teams of Eugene Mountain Rescue members searched for Jones from various locations, including the summit ridge and westside gulley ridges, Miller said.

Other search and rescue members assisted with radio communications and incident management, he said.

Search teams found Jones’s body, but were unable to recover him due to extreme rockfall hazard within the gulley, Miller said. Several “volleys” of rock debris were seen coming down the gulley during the search, he said, noting that the gully is known as the “Bowling Alley due to the way loose rock from upper reaches is funneled into it.

Search and rescue teams plan to return to the area after winter snow and summer melt-off, Miller said, to see if the body has moved down to a location safer to access by recovery teams.
Copyright 2011 KTVZ. All rights reserved.





Read more . . .
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Accidents in North American Mountaineering

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