Local

Crevasse fall is second in two weeks on Mount Baker

Watch Mount Baker helicopter rescue

A search and rescue helicopter crew from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station rescued an injured climber from the 9,000-foot level of Mount Baker on Sunday afternoon. The patient had fallen into a into a deep crevasse.
Up Next
A search and rescue helicopter crew from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station rescued an injured climber from the 9,000-foot level of Mount Baker on Sunday afternoon. The patient had fallen into a into a deep crevasse.

A 58-year-old British Columbia man was flown from Mount Baker after falling into a deep crevasse while skiing the volcano’s western slopes Sunday afternoon, officials said.

Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks said Monday that Ronald Veperts was descending the main climbing route on Coleman Glacier when he fell into a 60-foot crevasse.

Veperts, who was skiing when the incident occurred, was treated Sunday at St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham and transferred to another facility. Hospital officials didn’t know where he was taken.

“His climbing group was able to get him out of the crevasse but he was unable to move any further,” Parks said in an email. “(Veperts), from Ladner, B.C., was stable when transported but thought to have possible head, rib, and wrist injuries.”

A call to 911 at 3:43 p.m. alerted Bellingham authorities to the situation. Emergency radio dispatches said the caller had hiked to where cell phone service was available, and that both a doctor and nurse were with the seriously injured man.

Mike Welding, public affairs officer for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said the incident occurred at the 9,000-foot level of the 10,781-foot active volcano. The crew of an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter hovered above the scene and dropped rescuers with a litter to raise the patient, then flew him to the hospital.

0605 climber rescue (2)
A member of a search and rescue helicopter crew from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station prepares to be lowered down to rescue an injured climber from the 9,000-foot level of Mount Baker on Sunday afternoon. Whidbey Island Air Station pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Welding said the rescue was challenging because of its high altitude, and the helicopter crew left some equipment behind to make the aircraft lighter.

“This time of year, the number of calls we get tend to increase,” Welding said. “We expect to get the call, especially when the incident is challenging.”

It was at least the third incident in the North Cascades in the past two weeks, and the second Navy rescue from Mount Baker in two weeks, according to recent news reports.

Western Washington University student Shelby Withington, 20, died in a Memorial Day fall on Goat Wall in the Methow Valley. Two snowmobilers fell into a crevasse on Mount Baker and were rescued by a Navy helicopter crew May 21 from Squak Glacier on the mountain’s southeast slopes. Their injuries weren’t serious.

Mount Baker is popular among climbers in the late spring and summer months, and crevasse falls are not uncommon. A Seattle-area doctor died in June 2012 when he skied off an 800-foot cliff on the mountain’s Roman Wall.

Coleman Glacier is accessed via the popular Heliotrope Ridge hiking trail off Mount Baker Highway east of the mountain village of Glacier.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

Related stories from Bellingham Herald

  Comments