Series of climbing accidents on Mt. Shasta leaves 1 dead, 5 injured

A wide view of Mt. Shasta
The top of Mt. Shasta peeks above the clouds in April 2017. A recent series of climbing accidents has resulted in the death of one person and the injuries of five people.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Unstable conditions on Mt. Shasta in Northern California saw a guide killed and five others injured in a series of mountain climbing accidents this week.

On Monday morning, two climbers and their guide were tethered together and ascending Mt. Shasta when one of the climbers lost their footing, causing all three to fall, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. The three climbers slid on snow and ice about 1,500 to 2,500 vertical feet down the mountain.

The guide, identified as Jillian Webster, 32, of Redmond, Ore., died during the accident. A male climber was found in critical condition with an open fracture on his lower leg and head trauma, and a female climber was alert and oriented with a lower leg fracture. They were airlifted off the mountain and sent to a hospital.

The two climbers, who were a young couple from Seattle, did not have adequate equipment to climb the mountain, said Courtney Kreider, spokesperson for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.


In addition to inexperience, the couple faced difficult icy conditions created by the weather recently switching from extreme cold temperatures to extreme heat, Kreider said.

“The experienced climbers on and off [the mountain] are telling us it’s pure ice,” Kreider said. “It’s not good conditions for any sort of traction to maintain a good climb.”

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Later on Monday, two more climbers fell 1,000 vertical feet off Mt. Shasta, according to the sheriff’s office. Rescue teams responded to an injured male climber around noon Monday and found him injured but not in critical condition. Four hours later, the rescue team also found a female climber who had lost traction and slid down the mountain during the same accident. Both were airlifted to a hospital. The male climber was released from the hospital, and the female climber, after being discharged from the intensive care unit, was still recovering in the hospital.

There was another accident Tuesday morning, when first responders reported a sixth climber who was injured on Mt. Shasta. Rescue teams found the man and took him to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff’s office.

All of the accidents occurred near the Avalanche Gulch area of Mt. Shasta, sheriff’s officers said.

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Avalanche Gulch is a popular route used to climb Mt. Shasta, taking climbers along a 7,000-foot ascent. While mid-May to mid-July is considered the best time of year to take the route, climbers must also contend with snow melt and loose, unstable rocks, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The sheriff’s office urged people to avoid climbing the mountain over the next three days until conditions improve.

“It’s unsafe up there, it’s way too icy,” Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said in a statement. “People need to still stay off for the time being.”