most serious recent accident involving a long-time member of the
Mountaineers occurred when Rich
Davidson died October 4, 1996 while mountain climbing
Annapurna IV in Nepal. He was 46. Rich was an avid climber,
longtime member of the Los Alamos Mountaineers, and friend and
trusted companion to many.
Accident: A seven member American group from the Colorado
Mountain Club had been on the Standard Route for around 10 days when
a storm moved in, catching several climbers at their 5,300 meter
Camp 1. The 52 years old expedition leader, Cleve Armstrong, 46
years old Rich Davidson and 31 years old Debbie Marshall, elected to
wait out the storm, taking turns to clear snow off their tents. The
storm passed but another followed during the night of the 3rd-4th
October, catching the climbers off their guard while they slept.
Altogether an estimated three meters of snow fell in 48 hours.
Debbie Marshall was the mother of a 16-month-old boy; she had wanted
to be the first American First American woman to climb Annapurna IV.
Armstrong, whose tent was several
meters removed from the one where Davidson and Marshall slept,
cleared snow from the roof several times that night. In the morning
he received no response to his calls and subsequently found the
adjoining tent collapsed and buried by fresh snow. The pair inside
had obviously suffocated to death sometime during the night. It was
noted that they were sleeping with their feet towards the only
entrance, making it more difficult to escape had they woken up. Armstrong had to wait a day or two before making his own escape and
was subsequently taken off the mountain by helicopter and flown to Kathmandu.
Read Armstrong's view of the tragedy
Rich was a versatile, active, mountaineer who mentored many of us in
a very special way that was supportive, understanding, and caring.
He was careful not to push, but instead suggested by example.
Rich said that he loved climbing uphill on snow more than any other
pastime, and he led several long ski tours and ski mountaineering
trips for the Mountaineers. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Davidson Memorial Climbs: Gary Clark organized
several honorary climbs in Rich's name. Of them, we have
trip reports on two: San Luis Peak and
Education: Davidson received his bachelor's and master's
degrees in civil engineering from New Mexico State University in
1972 and 1973, respectively. He also received a master's degree in
business administration from the University of Idaho.
Career at LANL: After working six years as a senior
engineer for EG&G, Inc., Davidson came to the Los Alamos National
Laboratory in 1979, starting in Design Analysis (WX-6). He also
worked in such groups as Technical Engineering Support (WX-4),
Safety Assessment (N-6) and Engineering and Safety Analysis (TSA-6),
before moving to ESA-EA last year.
He worked on several projects
during his 17-year tenure at the Laboratory, including the Railgun,
Armor/Anti-armor, Hanford Waste Tank Safety Analysis, Hypervelocity
Microparticle Impact Dynamics Analysis, and Vulnerability, Lethality
and Effects projects.
Davidson also performed structural
engineering analysis support evaluations on the explosion at the
Tomsk-7 Radiochemistry Facility in Russia. His areas of expertise
included finite elements applications and hydrocode simulations.
If you have any climbing or skiing photos of Rich, please send a few
for use on this page. Thanks, Jan