American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

No Hardhat or Climbing Harness — British Columbia, Coast Range, Mt. Waddington

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

NO HARDHAT OR CLIMBING HARNESS—British Columbia, Coast Range, Mt. Waddington. A party of eight persons, most of them members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club, was packing 50-pound loads up to high camp for Mt. Waddington. Atop the Bravo Glacier there is a thin ridge to be walked. This featured a soft cornice on one side and a small rock ledge on the other. The party was roped into four teams, with two to a rope. About midday on 31 July 1974, the party was climbing this ledge, belaying. On fourth rope was Peter Womble, leading, and Graham Nourse (26). None of the eight was wearing a hardhat, although they had been worn the day before on high-angle rock and were being carried for the final tower of Waddington. Nourse fell off the ledge and was held by Womble’s belay, but he pendulumed 50 feet into a rock wall. He suffered internal injuries (at the waist caused by the rope) and a fatal skull fracture. Nourse did not die immediately, but first aid failed to keep him alive. His body was secured by the party and recovered in hazardous conditions after three attempts by helicopter five days later. (Sources: Dick Culbert and newspaper account of coroner’s jury hearing.)

Analysis: Although reasonably experienced, there were indications that Nourse was not comfortable in this difficult terrain with a heavy pack. This is difficult to judge in retrospect, however, as the accident was caused by a simple slip that could happen to anyone. If Nourse had been wearing his hardhat and a chest harness, he may well have escaped serious injury. (Sources: Dick Culbert, James Prior.)

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