American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure, British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Bugaboo Spire

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

RAPPEL FAILURE

British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Bugaboo Spire

Oscar Fleuhler (29), leader, John Leedale (24), and Daniel Minion (15) were descending the south ridge of Bugaboo Spire in light drizzle on 1 September 1979. They rappelled from the first summit, using a body wrap, to the col above the gendarme, and decided to rappel down their ascent route on the west face instead of down the usual east face. They set up the rappel with two ropes, and Fleuhler told Minion and Leedale to attach themselves to the rappel rope with a prusik loop when they were descending. He then led off, as a traversing rappel had to be made. When he reached the bottom, Minion followed, but without a prusik loop, as he did not have one. He descended too low, and the rope below him jammed on a flake. When struggling to free it, he unwrapped himself from the rope and fell 250-300 feet, and undoubtedly was killed instantly. (Source: L. Gottselig, T. Auger)

Analysis

All rappellers should be belayed if possible. A properly placed prusik loop might have helped prevent this accident, although prusik loops can cause trouble for one who is not used to them.

The accident occurred on an official climb of the Calgary Section of the ACC. The Section has since decided to follow ACC policy and not allow persons under the age of 16 years on Section climbs or camps unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. (Source: L. Gottselig, T. Auger)

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