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Fall on Mixed Rock and Climbing Unroped – British Columbia, Mt. Assiniboine Park, Mt. Assiniboine North Face

FALL ON MIXED ROCK AND SNOW AND CLIMBING UNROPED— British Columbia, Mt. Assiniboine Park, Mt. Assiniboine North Face. R. Chisholm (36), a competent climber, and L. Armitage were climbing on the north face of Mt. Assiniboine on July 2. The conditions were severe, with high winds, blowing snow, and snow on ice and rock. Another party on the mountain decided to return, but after consulting them, Chisholm and Armitage decided to continue. They were climbing unroped, with ice axes and crampons, on mixed ground above red band around 10:30 a.m. when Chisholm slipped and fell into a steep scree slope covered with verglas. He tried to selfarrest but failed, although he was still trying when he slid down a snow gully past Armitage, and fell 2000 feet. His helmet, type unknown, was smashed and torn from his head and was found near his body. He had severe head and other injuries and no doubt died during the fall. His ice axe and crampons were not found. (Source: L. Michaud and T. S. Gain.)

Analysis: Chisholm had had difficulty with his crampon straps twice before his fall, and perhaps they failed. If he had been roped the accident might not have happened, although the mountain is usually climbed unroped for most of its height. Perhaps crampons should not have been worn as they can cause difficulties on mixed rock and snow. (Source: L. P. Michaud.) It appears from this and other accidents that ice axe arrests fail in reality more frequently than tests on practice slopes suggest. Unfortunately, the state of the snow he was trying to stop on was not recorded. (Source: E. Whalley.)