American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of The Safety Committees of the American Alpine Club and the Alpine Club of Canada

  • Editorials And Prefaces
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

This is the thirty-fifth issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering and the sixth that has been edited and published jointly by The American Alpine Club and The Alpine Club of Canada.

Canada: This issue includes several accident reports from 1980 as well as the 1981 reports. In addition, revised statistics for 1980 have been included in the totals.

In 1981, avalanches were responsible for five of the six deaths in Canadian mountaineering. Three heli-skiers and one cross-country skier were also killed. Seven of these accidents occurred in four separate incidents in the Banff-Yoho-Golden area during the disastrous three-day period from February 21 to 23. During the week prior to February 21, an old snow pack which had lain over most of the high country throughout January and early February, was covered by two feet of fresh snow. The fresh snow had not bonded to the metamorphosed surface of the old snow, causing extreme instability. Although the Park Wardens were advising people of this dangerous situation, the message was either not received or was ignored by some of those heading for the mountains.

Greater public awareness and better methods of warning people about periods of extreme danger would help to reduce the number of accidents. However, the onus still remains on the individual mountaineer or skier to acquire this information and to observe the safety procedures that will permit safe travel in the mountains.

Considerable work on avalanche hazards has been going on in Canada during the past few years. The Canadian Avalanche Committee has been active in collecting statistics and in fostering an exchange of information. In December 1981, a new organization, The Canadian Avalanche Association, was formed. This society will bring together people who are professionally engaged in avalanche work. A three-day Avalanche Symposium held in Edmonton in January 1982 drew 275 participants.

United States: This year the pendulum swung again; there was a thirty-per cent decrease in accidents reported as compared with the previous year. The number of deaths increased because two accidents—one of them a cataclysmic icefall on Mount Rainier—claimed nearly half the total for the year. A variety of illnesses as well as climbing unroped, using no hard hat, and crampons were high on the list of accident causes. Falling rocks exceeded the yearly average.

As requests from insurance companies, lawyers, agencies, adventure programs and the media for both information and opinions have increased over the past few years, it is time to point out once again that the primary purpose of this report is to collect statistical information on and descriptions of mountain climbing accidents and incidents. This data is then presented in such a way that climbers and other interested readers can draw informed and appropriate conclusions as to what preventive measures will lead to safer climbing.

We are grateful to the following persons for collecting reports. Canada: Tim Auger, Helen Butling, D.A. Dumpleton, Lloyd Freese, Hans Fuhrer, Peter Fuhrmann, Lloyd Gallagher, Denis Gravel, C. Israelson, Ian Kay, Jim Mark, Bruce McKinnon, Patrick Rousseau, and Chris Sadleir. United States: Bob Gerhard, Don Goodman, Hal Grovert, John Dill, Craig Patterson, Craig Karr, Ruth Mendenhall, Brad Snyder, Dennis Burge, Patricia Fletcher, T.C.Price Zimmermann and Mark Moderow.

R. Reader, Editor, Canada

Box 121, RR3

Carp, Ontario KOA 1L0

John E. Williamson, Editor, USA 7 River Ridge Road Hanover, New Hampshire 03755


The American Alpine Club

Dennis K. Burge, Benjamin J. Ferris, Jr., Mark R. Moderow, Bradley J. Snyder, Donald J. Goodman, Richard F. Wilcox, Jr., and John E. (Jed) Williamson (Chairman).

The Alpine Club of Canada

Helmut Microys, Kevin O’Connell, Roland Reader, Paul Ritzema, Don Seri, and Stan Rosenbaum (Chairman).

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