American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alberta, Canadian Rockies, Mt. Athabasca

  • In Memoriam
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

Alberta, Canadian Rockies, Mt. Athabasca. On 12 August Burl Mostul and Dan Hale (39) were climbing on the N.W. Ridge of Mt. Athabasca. Mr. Hale lost his footing and slid down approximately 1,000 feet in an avalanche shute. The two had been roped up while crossing the lower crevassed slopes and had unroped to continue on to the top of the ridge. Mr. Mostul was leading the party and they were approximately 300 feet below the top of the ridge when the incident occurred. Mr. Hale attempted to self-arrest twice but on the second attempt lost his ice-axe. He slid down the ice face and over a 30-foot bergschrund and came to rest on old avalanche debris. Mr. Mostul proceeded down to Mr. Hale and found him to be in shock. He left him with his parka and wind suit and proceeded to the highway to report the accident. He left the accident at approximately 1230 and reported to the information bureau at about 1320. A helicopter from Valemont was called in and arrived at Ranger Creek at 1500. Several wardens had gathered at Ranger Creek. In the meantime, Hans Fuhrer, Max Winkler, Alfie Burstrom, and Dale Portman flew to Mt. Athabasca. Additional equipment was driven to the icefields. The helicopter located the injured man but was unable to land with four persons so it landed near the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. Max and Hans then went up and later Alfie and a stretcher. The helicopter could land about 300 feet from the injured man. He was found in severe shock. He was completely roped up to a double rope, and had a chest harness and crampons on. He was wet and lying on his side and could not speak well. He was loaded onto the stretcher and flown directly to Jasper. Without the helicopter, the rescuers felt the man would have died because of exposure and shock. Also, it would have taken about two and a half to three hours to go to the accident site by foot and then four to five hours down. The entire rescue went very well and smoothly.

Source: J. Woodrow, Park Warden — Sunwapta Area.

Analysis: The party unroped when it was unsafe to do so.

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