Denali, snow pickets and lawsuit


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 27 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Mountain climber
Bay Area , California
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 25, 2013 - 10:24pm PT

The estate of a Swiss man who died during a 2011 descent of Mount McKinley has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence by a guide company resulted in his death.

Attorneys for the defendant, Colorado-based Mountain Trip International, said in federal court papers filed Wednesday that climber Beat Niederer was aware of the substantial risk involved in climbing the highest peak in North America and knowingly assumed that risk.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Apr 25, 2013 - 11:03pm PT
NPS accident investigation.

Running belays on this terrain is not normal.. I simply pointed my ski's straight down the same place. In the conditions that were encountered that day it would have been good to have. But It would be akin to taking pitons up the nose. Gear you just don't expect to use on this part of the route. Also it would have slowed the team down in what sounds like very tough deteriorating weather. A long fall from running pickets is still quite possible.

mine is the straight line to the right of the main track with the big GS turn above.

Steel shovels here??? are you nuts? perhaps a backhoe might work. Dig a hole in a glacier.. ??? Dunno

Fact if Staeheli couldn't handle it don't even think your ass could have done better. Without bringing a whole camp worth of gear to the summit it would be hard to come up with standard operating procedures that would have made this situation non-life threatening. Safer yes, would a bag shovel, pickets, ice screws and sack have possibly saved the clients life... maybe.

Dave is the best. A mentor and collegue.

Hanging out with Dave on the Summit 1991 top left to right Matt Howard (see my last TR on the Buttermilks), Dave Staeheli, Todd Deis second row Derek Roland (me) Will Rindom. Two different teams summited at same time but all members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 25, 2013 - 11:04pm PT

It's always somebody else's fault, isn't it?
Captain...or Skully

Apr 25, 2013 - 11:08pm PT
If you NEED a guide, you deserve to die.
It's mountaineering.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Apr 26, 2013 - 04:32pm PT
There should be a permission slip signed with something in plain English like this:

"You are entirely responsible for your own life and assuming your own risk of death, dismemberment, or other grave or minor injury, or mental suffering or other damages by participating in this guided expedition. By signing here, you and your heirs or assignees release us from any and all liability in the event of your death or injury or , regardless of cause, regardless of responsible party, and in spite of any mistakes, omissions, errors, oversights, lapses in judgment, willful misconduct, or other act or failure to act in any situation. In short, there is no scenario under which you or your heirs or assignees may have a valid case against us. If you disagree with any portion of this agreement, you are welcome to choose another vendor or guide yourself up the mountain. Please attach an amendment to your will or living trust that specifically disinherits any heir or assignees that attempt to file suit against us."

Apr 26, 2013 - 05:04pm PT
Russ said it best:

Rock Climbing and any variation of this sport is dangerous. Risk cannot be eliminated. This catalog is not an instruction manual, nor should it take the place of good judgement. The equipment offered in this catalog can kill you. It can kill you on your first day out to the crags with your squeaky clean boots and rope. It can kill a seasoned "Wall Master" with a thousand pitches under his belt. If living under the threat of death is less than appealing to you, please find another sport. Heads do pop off. Families will lose favorite members. Rescue people will be forced to scoop you into vile green vinyl bags. Remember, you made the choice to climb. Have the guts to take responsibility for what you are doing, be it dying, quasi mutilation, or something as simple as just losing your mind. If you intend to weasel out of your obligation to be responsible, and see laying blame on us as an alternative to your ineptness, please do not buy our gear. Please, close your wallet and go away now, before it's too late. Bye. See ya. Hasta la Vista.
Be accountable, Be responsible, Be alive.
Try it sometime.
Have a nice day!
Fish Products

Social climber
Apr 26, 2013 - 06:28pm PT

& + 1,000,000,000

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2013 - 07:55pm PT
Lawyers - nowhere is beyond their reach.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Apr 26, 2013 - 08:24pm PT
Fish disclaimer is awesome!

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2013 - 08:28pm PT
Yes, it is awesome but, sadly, not bullet-proof.

Ice climber
the ford VT
May 31, 2013 - 02:03pm PT
The real problem is in the one guide to three client ratio. If the client with frostbitten hands had not turned around and took the assistant guide with him there would have been two trained individuals on the mountain after the accident.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 31, 2013 - 02:08pm PT
It's always somebody else's fault, isn't it?

That's the essence of the American tort system. In California with comparative negligence, it's not entirely clear that assumption of the risk is a complete defense, because the disclaimer (even the Fish disclaimer) may be "imperfect."


Dingleberry Gulch, Ideeho
May 31, 2013 - 02:16pm PT
If I were the Suiss guy's, um, "estate", I'd blame society.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
May 31, 2013 - 02:25pm PT
If you NEED a guide, you deserve to die.

Harsh! - but so-o-o-o-o true.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 31, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
I generally agree that if you need a guide, at least to safely get up and down the thing), you probably shouldn't be there in the first place. The problem I have with guiding is that they know all too well that they are in the business of taking people up and down the mountain that THEY know should not be there but are willing to do so anyways to earn a buck. If you ask me, they invite this kind of scrutiny.

When holding out their credentials, I believe there is an implied understanding that, while not guaranteeing your safety, they are definitely looking out for it and can do a better job of that than perhaps their other competitors. What's the purpose of certification if not to show potential clients that you are better, i.e., safer, than someone who is not?

I don't really have an opinion of this particular lawsuit, but this is the cost of doing business. If you don't like it, don't guide.
michael feldman

Mountain climber
millburn, nj
May 31, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
I am a climber, a lawyer, and I sometimes use guides. Do NOT lump all of these categories together. Doing so is as naive as claiming all mountains kill, all guides are great (or horrible), etc. There are horrible non-guided climbers out there who do plenty of dumb things and make conditions less safe for others. I also believe that most of the rescues required in the mountains are of non-guided climbers. Does that make them dumb or deserving of death? Remember, even Brad Washburn started to climb with guides in Europe. Does that mean he should have died?

Ok, now that we are past that. Mountain Trip is a very reputable company. Their guides tend to be top-notch (though I have never climbed with them, I know many people who have, and I have met several of their guides in Denali base camp when I was there to do other climbs). There can be little or no doubt that any of their clients were aware, or were made aware, of the dangers of Denali. Guide or no guide, the mountain is dangerous and can be deadly. Guides are there to teach and to protect, but not to guarantee safety. Mountains are dangerous places. While it is possible that carrying more equipment, or belaying constantly, would have made conditions more safe, it might have also caused more problems. The more safety equipment (pickets, sleeping bags, tents, extra food, extra fuel, extra clothing, etc.) brought, the slower the group moves. On a mountain like Denali, speed is often the greatest safety. More equipment means slower movement, which means more exposure to the elements and avalanches, which means more frostbite and more chance of harm. Needless to say, I am fairly confident that the guides went over all of this.

While hindsight may be 20/20 in this case, this should not be one of liability or a lawsuit unless there is something missing (i.e., really gross negligence on the part of the guide).

Just to add to my original comments - after reading the official report, it appears that the guides did not comply with some of their contractual obligations (with the Park Service) in guiding this group. It is unclear whether this contributed to the death, but it appears unlikely to me. Rather, it may have contributed to frostbite after the accident.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 31, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
There is a natural affinity to guiding, from climbers. Some of our friends are guides. We have have been or are guides ourselves ( I am not and never have been suited for such work). Most of that guiding, historically, has been grass roots entrepreneurial spirit.

So sometimes it seems guiding issues are our issues, as a collective. And sometimes they are. Most often though, in my experience (as a permo-non-client) very few guiding issues are pertinent to the greater group of climbers. They are uniquely guiding issues that affect the guides, their clients and the places they tread.

Rainier, Shasta, Everest - all suggest the grass roots aspect of guiding will morph into a corporate experience once sufficient $$$ are injected into the marketplace.

Once it goes from the grass roots to a corporate model I don't give a rats ass if they get hit with liability suits, particularly if the company has exclusive operating permits within a national park, for example.

Completely unsympathetic. If you start a company dealing dangerous sh#t to unqualified people, expect some lawsuits along the way and by some f*#king liability insurance.

Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
May 31, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
I hate these kinds of lawsuits. Legalese aside, the bottom line is, did someone do something wrong? As in, immoral or illegal. Negligence means you did something wrong, not paying attention, cutting corners, and so on.

There may be differences of opinion as to whether they needed to put in pro for the descent, but the worst that I can see is that someone may have made a bad judgment call. If you put in pro then you go slower and the risks have to be weighed. The reason a lawyer took this case is that statistically, US juries award about $2.5 million dollars for a wrongful death case.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
May 31, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
climbski2, WILL RINDOM?? Are you freeking kidding me?!!

I recognized him immediately, and had to look at your text again to double check names!

Will is an old friend, and I still (not enough) stay in touch with him!

Can't believe I just saw a picture of Will Rindom on Supertopo, awesome, mutter mutter smile.....

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 31, 2013 - 04:56pm PT
The issue of liability on climbs has been around a rather long time. The first time I ran across it was in 1967 when Summit published an article discussing the duty of care a climber owed his or her partner. That article brought forth a strong reaction by several, decrying the author's "bottomless appetite for torts" because the partner didn't do enough, e.g.

Most of us are instinctively appalled when we consider such a suit by one climber against another for a climbing injury, but those sorts of things happen in everyday life all the time. If a passenger gets injured in an accident caused by the driver's negligence, the passenger commonly sues (or at least makes a claim against) the driver. Perhaps we see that differently because of the presence of insurance covering such a risk, but the situation legally strikes me as no different from receiving a negligent belay from your partner, causing an accident.

In any case, I think a guiding situation has an implied contract (if not a written one), with duties expected of the guide that may exceed those expected from a partner. While disclaimers can limit that liability, public policy (i.e., what judges think) often limits the exculpatory ability of such disclaimers, particularly if they purport to shield the guide from liability for negligence.

I suspect, though, that we see relatively few lawsuits over climbing accidents because climbers, as a rule, don't have that many assets. Torts need deep pockets for lawyers to take the case.

Messages 1 - 20 of total 27 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews