American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall in River—British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Blaeberry River

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

FALL IN RIVER—British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Blaeberry River. Mountain climbers frequently have to cross rivers, and occasionally drown in them as a result. We are reminded of this by the following accident which was serious and could have been fatal.

Peggy Ostlund was crossing a bridge over the Blaeberry River on July 24, 1976, on her way from the ACC General Mountaineering Camp, after having looked for a better crossing and not finding one. The bridge had three logs and a loose rope tied at both ends. Her boot slipped between two of the logs and her foot was locked in place. She then lost her balance and fell upstream and was swept under the bridge by the swift current, still holding the rope, which was useless. She grabbed one of the logs and tried to free her pack, which was pulling her under and threatening to drown her. She got the shoulder straps free but could not unbuckle the waist strap. In the attempt, her hand slipped off the log and the pressure of the water on her body freed her trapped leg and she was swept downstream. Finally, after many attempts, she pulled herself out of the water in a small cove. (Source: Peggy Ostlund.)

Analysis. Crossing swift streams is dangerous and should not be done alone. Climbers should be familiar with proper techniques. Waist straps should always be unbuckled. (Source: Peggy Ostlund.)

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