American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, No Belay, Inexperience, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Thompson Creek Area

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Thompson Creek Area

On August 14, 1981, a party of four backpackers were climbing through steep cliff bands when one member of the party experienced difficulty in climbing a section of rock. The victim went to the edge of the cliff to lower a polypropylene rope to his friend to assist him. As he leaned over to lower the rope, he fell headfirst onto a ledge below and over another 15-meter cliff. He then rolled 50 meters down a steep scree slope where he was stopped by a rock. He received multiple injuries in the fall. One member of the party hiked out for help while the others stayed with the victim.

A Warden Service Rescue Team evacuated the victim by helicopter sling after initial treatment of injuries. He died September 21, 1981. (Source: C. Israelson, Banff National Park)


The party was in terrain that was difficult for them. The victim may have slipped on loose rocks at the top of the cliff or simply lost his balance. When working near the edge of a cliff, a belay is necessary. Far too many serious accidents occur because the consequences of a slip on moderate terrain are underestimated. (Source: C. Israelson, Banff National Park) (Editor’s Note: While this is not a mountaineering accident, it is included to illustrate how backpackers and hikers can get into difficulties in mountainous terrain.)

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