American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock and Failure to Follow Route—Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountain

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1977

FALLING ROCK AND FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE—Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountain. On July 16, 1975, a party of eight army cadets and their platoon commander were on a one-day hike up the SW ridge of Cascade Mountain, reaching it by its NW branch. They intended to do no climbing and had no climbing equipment. They stopped for lunch at the lower of the two steps, and decided that there was too little time to reach the summit. Instead of returning by the standard route or by a known route, they decided to try a coulior descending to the SW directly below the lower step, which none of them knew or had been told about. The start was inviting, but there were steep cliffs lower down. Cadet William Shaw was climbing down an approximately 40-foot wall of about 5.3-5.4 difficulty, and in the course of it grabbed a large, loose limestone block. The block came off and carried him down the cliff, and over first an 80-foot and then a 150-foot cliff. He finally stopped about 300 feet below his fall. He was killed immediately by massive head injuries. (Source: Kevin O’Connell.)

Analysis. It is always risky to descend an unknown gully, particularly without ropes or significant mountain experience. When it becomes difficult, the only safe action is to return and descend a better route. (Source: Kevin O’Connell.)

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