American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Loss of Control – Voluntary Glissade, No Hard Hat, British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mt. Assiniboine

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

LOSS OF CONTROL—VOLUNTARY GLISSADE, NO HARD HAT

British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mt. Assiniboine

Mike Pelletier (20), an experienced mountaineer, and Brian Vezina were descending the north ridge of Mt. Assiniboine unroped on 9 July 1979 at 1100 hours. Pelletier was carrying but not wearing a helmet. About 700 feet below the summit, he began glissading on a snow patch on the north face. After about 20 feet, his ice axe struck a rock and flipped him over. He tried to stop himself but failed in the mixed snow and rock when the axe caught on a rock and was torn from his hands. He fell far down the mountain and was killed by multiple injuries. (Source: John Fyke, T. Auger)

Analysis

It is always dangerous to glissade where there is no clear run-out at the bottom.

This was the first of three fatal accidents in the summer of 1979, all within an area of 100 square yards, on Mt. Assiniboine. All the climbers were fairly experienced rock climbers or mountaineers, but none had much experience in the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Assiniboine is one of the most famous peaks in the Rockies, and is often the only goal of new visitors. It is made of bands of rotten, sedimentary rock, and the upper half consists of steep cliffs and sloping ledges covered with scree. While it is not a difficult climb in summer, it sometimes entraps unwary climbers into making the simplest mountaineering mistakes by not treating moderate terrain seriously enough. (Source: T. Auger, John Fyke)

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