American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall Through Cornice, Fall on Snow, Climbing Unroped, British Columbia Mountains, Spearman Peak

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

FALL THROUGH CORNICE, FALL ON SNOW, CLIMBING UNROPED

British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Spearman Peak

Keith Boyer (20), Steve Nickolls (24), and three companions reached the summit of Spearman Peak by the northwest face about 1800 hours on 12 August 1978 in poor visibility. There was two-five centimeters of new snow on crust on the ascent route, and much more on the summit, which is relatively flat. As the party was moving around on the summit area, Nickolls suddenly cried out and disappeared through a cornice overhanging the southeast face. The remaining climbers immediately began to descend the northwest face parallel to their ascent route, apparently intending to go round to the southeast face at a lower level and search for Nickolls. Shortly below the summit, Boyer slipped, tried unsuccessfully to self-arrest, fell down the face and across a rock band, disappearing on the glacier below. The survivors continued down and spent the evening and the next day looking unsuccessfully for Nickolls and Boyer. Boyer’s ice axe was found in the rock band, and his body appeared to have fallen into one of several large crevasses about 500 meters below the summit. A search, initiated by the RCMP included a helicopter, a tracking dog, and nine members of the Provincial Emergency Program Mountain Rescue Group, was carried out on 26-27 August until bad weather and avalanche hazard forced a halt. Again, no sign of the victims was found; their bodies still had not been recovered at the time of publication. (Source: D. Hirchmer, Mountain Rescue Group)

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