Three injured climbers were rescued Sunday, Sept. 9, after they plunged 30 feet into a crevasse on Ruth Mountain.
The men had camped near Hannegan Pass the night before. They summited Ruth Mountain at 7:45 a.m. On the way down, Anthony Fiorillo, who described himself as an experienced climber, offered to give some lessons in crevasse rescue to his two climbing buddies, Keith LeMay and Jefferson Morriss.
It was a lesson they won't soon forget.
Fiorillo fastened climbing anchors to the inside of a 30-foot-deep chasm. All three climbers were tied together when Morriss rapelled down about 10:30 a.m. to practice while the other two stayed above. But for reasons Fiorillo still doesnt know, one of the runners (or slings) on the anchor failed and the weight of Morriss pulled all three men down. They fell onto the rocks below.
"I don't remember how we landed or anything like that," Fiorillo said. "It happened very quickly."
LeMay suffered broken ribs; Morriss had a large gash on his head. Fiorillo was the least hurt of the trio. He scrambled out by shimmying against both sides of the slim crevasse. When he got to the top, he saw he had cell phone service and called 911.
Another group of climbers passing through helped to pull LeMay and Morriss from the crevasse while rescue teams and helicopters were stalled by rough weather. The two climbers were then airlifted to St. Joseph hospital.
Fiorillo was taken to a Sno-Park and driven to Bellingham.
The crevasse was about a quarter-mile from the border of North Cascades National Park, said Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy George Ratayczak.
As of Monday, LeMay was still in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. Morriss' condition was satisfactory.
The three men knew each other because they attended the same church.
Fiorillo commended the rescue teams for doing a great job.
"It could have been 100 times worse," he said.
Reach CALEB HUTTON at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2276.