July 28, 2010 in Outdoors, Region

52-year-old Seattle man dies in Mount Rainier fall

Manuel Valdes Associated Press
Courtesy of Fred Slater photo

In this July 2009 photo provided by Fred Slater, Lee F. Adams, who died on Mount Rainier in Washington on July 27 after falling into a crevasse, poses for a picture at a climbing spot in Mazama, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE — A Seattle man who died from a fall into a crevasse on Mount Rainier was a beloved climber well known in the city’s climbing circles for his spirited energy on mountains.

Lee F. Adams, 52, was part of a four-man crew descending the mountain on Emmons Glacier at about 13,000 feet Tuesday when the last person on the rope tripped and fell. The men were swept off their feet, couldn’t stop their fall and plummeted into a crevasse, where Adams died on impact, according to officials at Mount Rainier National Park.

Another climber was hurt, and the two others avoided injury when they fell onto a false floor. Adams fell farther, said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor.

“Big shock … I’m just surprised it was Lee,” said Fred Slater, a member of the Washington Alpine Club, where Adams helped teach for many years. “We all expected him to continue climbing well into his 60s. He was so fast. No one could ever keep up with Lee. He would outclimb and out-hike anybody.”

Slater said the accident was unusual because the mountain’s crevasses are visible in the summer, but he said Adams’ death shows accidents can happen to anybody.

Adams was a research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.

Pat O’Brien, climbing chairman at the Washington Alpine Club, said Adams was climbing with a friend from Texas and the friend’s two teenage sons. The crew, he said, was descending on the second most popular route on the 14,411-foot mountain. Crevasses in that area can be more than 150 deep, O’Brien said.

“I’ve done a lot of peaks with Lee that were very scary,” O’Brien said, pausing. “And a standard route on Rainier is the one that does him in.”

O’Brien described Adams as an experienced outdoorsman, climber and avid skier. He had been a volunteer instructor at the club for more than 10 years.

The three surviving climbers were able to climb out of the crevasse to reach Camp Schurman at 9,450 feet, where they spent Tuesday night in company of climbing rangers, Taylor said. Two of climbers were climbing down the mountain Wednesday, and the injured climber was airlifted. Park rangers were able to retrieve Adams’ body Wednesday afternoon.

Slater described Adams as generous, enthusiastic, naturally athletic, and consistently sensible.

Adams was originally from Maine but had lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years. He was single with no children, his friends said.

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