American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded on Rock, Inexperienced, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mt. Louis

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1979


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mt. Louis

Three young climbers, Phil Smith, Scott Duncan, and Ron Carmichael, started up the standard southeast face route of Mt. Louis early on 25 June 1978. It requires about 600 meters of moderate to exposed climbing and is slightly devious. Their progress was very slow, and they decided to bivouac without gear some one hundred meters below the Picnic Plateau, a major feature on the route. They called to say they were OK to a party of climbers who had passed them during the day and rappelled off the peak. The next day they continued. At 1700 hours the rescue helicopter flew a check on them and found them still struggling with the summit chimneys. They signaled that they had no injuries but were unable to go on. A rescuer was slung onto the mountain. Two of the boys were lifted from the summit, and later one from the Picnic Plateau. The third boy had been unable to climb the upper pitches and had been left behind on the ledges. (Source: T. Auger)


It seems obvious that a party that has neither the skill to complete or retreat from a climb nor the judgment to know when to turn back should never start; but, unfortunately, this story is told over and over again. Perhaps knowing that efficient rescue teams are nearby and willing, coupled with inexperience, encourages such rash behavior. (Source: T. Auger, E. Whalley)

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