American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Wet Snow Slide, Fall on Ice, Unroped, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Moraine Lake, 3-1/2 Couloir

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

WET SNOW SLIDE, FALL ON ICE, UNROPED

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Moraine Lake, 3-3½ Couloir

Two Yugoslavian mountaineers started down the 3-3½ Couloir, a steep 2,000-foot- high ice chute, from the Graham Cooper bivouac hut at noon on 20 August 1979. While one descended cautiously near the rocks on the side of the gully, the other, Milan Matouina (26), cramponed down the middle on shallow snow. When he was only a few hundred feet down, he was swept away by a small wet snow slide, and fell all the way down the ice and several hundred feet out into rocks. He suffered multiple injuries and died while being evacuated by the Lake Louise Warden Rescue team. The other climber was evacuated by helicopter sling as well. (Source: T. Auger)

Analysis

While the 3-3½ Couloir is a classic steep snow and ice chute leading directly from the valley to the alpine hut, it is, under most conditions, a climb in itself and not the normal access to or from the hut. The snow slide was the result of fresh snow being lubricated by warming temperatures and rain. In these conditions the gully, particularly the center, is dangerous. The climbers were neither roped nor wearing helmets. (Source: T. Auger)

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