CALLING IN THE ACCIDENT
After the slide “we didn’t see them, and we yelled and we assumed they had been killed,” Tobin says. Seeing no signs of them and unwilling to enter the avy zone due to the risk of death, he and Blanchard presumed the worst. Blanchard reported the accident on his phone; soon an Army rescue helicopter “went up and down that area looking for signs of life and [finding none] declared them dead. Which was unfortunate,” Tobin said.
Deal told me later that his whole family was notified of his demise.
That evening the teams flip-flopped their climbing schedules: Deal and Hinton began climbing at night in order to reduce avalanche risk, while Blanchard and Tobin stuck to day climbing. Under darkness, Deal and Hinton made it 700 metres up the face. The following day more aircraft began to circle the face but Deal and Hinton were far above the search area, out of sight in the cloud cover above.
Since Deal and Hinton could hear what seemed to be a rescue, they didn’t know what was going on. When Blanchard and Tobin’s heads popped up 500 metres across the face from Deal and Hinton, everyone was surprised and confused.
After some yelling back and forth, Tobin explained that he thought Deal and Hinton were dead and that he and Blanchard had called in the accident. Blanchard recalls calling over, “the whole world thinks you’re dead, do you want us to call your family [to clear things up]?”
To fix their mistake, Blanchard and Tobin called in mountain rescue and gave them the news that “the lads,” as he grew to refer to them, were indeed alive. That apparently wasn’t good enough for the park service, Deal recalls; a visual was needed to confirm that the party was indeed alive. Air traffic continued.
The following morning, Deal and Hinton climbed over to Tobin and Blanchard and, as the teams got closer, an Apache helicopter approached the wall for another look. Deal and Hinton waved to the men in the helicopter, gave the thumbs up, and continued climbing.
For the next five days, Deal and Hinton, and Blanchard and Tobin climbed the remaining 2,600 metres up the route.
Perhaps from the stress of surviving an avalanche, or from being stuck on the wall for a week and enduring storms and hard climbing, at one anchor Deal and Hinton started yelling at one another and punches were thrown. “After windmilling at each other, we realized neither one of us wanted to die, so we got back to the climbing,” Deal says.
Tobin remembers it a little differently, and also recalls intervening. “It just didn’t seem like the right kind of place to come to a fight,” he says. “Later, one of the guys took a 10-metre lead fall.”
All four continued to climb. On the summit plateau, and with the technical climbing behind them, Deal and Hinton crawled into a crevasse to wait out blowing snow before making the final summit push. They invited the other team to seek shelter in the
“Perhaps from the stress of surviving an avalanche, or from being stuck on the wall for a week and enduring storms and hard climbing, at one anchor Deal and Hinton started yelling at one another and punches were thrown.”
crevasse with them but Blanchard and Tobin declined and set up their tent ahead.
The way Deal describes it, the climb became a race for the summit with Tobin and Blanchard in the lead. The next day Deal and Hinton got a late start and by the time they crawled out of the crevasse the other team was gone, only their tracks leading to the summit remained.
Months passed before the two teams heard from each other, eventually connecting and exchanging slides.