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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: The tragic story of Mrs. Stone’s mountain rescue came to light

 (S-R archives )
(S-R archives )

More details emerged of the mountaineering ordeal of Mrs. W.E. Stone, wife of the president of Purdue University.

She was on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Canadian Rockies with her husband when they came upon a V-shaped “chimney” near the top of a mountain.

They were roped together and he led the way. He apparently reached the top, untied the ropes, and called down to her, saying, “I see nothing higher.”

The next thing she saw was his body plunging past her. He had apparently slipped. She watched in horror as his body fell “a full 3,000 feet,” in her estimation.

“Too shocked to move, she remained in her dangerous position all through the night and most of the next day, without food or water.”

Then, she had a “hallucination.” She believed she saw many people moving a short distance down the mountain.

“She espied a ledge about 40 feet down and, uncoiling her rope, began to lower herself to it in the belief that it led around the mountain to the people she believed there. Her rope came to an end about 10 feet above the ledge, but finding she could not raise herself again, she released her hold and tumbled to the ledge, which was only about four feet wide at its greatest width and only few feet longer.”

There, she found water slowly seeping through the rocks through a tuft of moss. She was able to dig a small hole and get a drink of water about every two hours.

There she stayed for eight more days. Some nights it rained heavily. The rocks were so rough she could lie only on her stomach. Occasionally, she uttered cries for help. She lost all reckoning of time “and hardly seemed to think.”

Finally, a member of the search party heard her cries and lowered himself to the ledge. It took two hours to get her in condition to ascend, and then he was able to get her to a safer place.

“There he strapped her to his back and carried her down to a temporary camp, 32 miles from Banff.”

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