American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Belay, Inadequate Protection, Inexperience, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Freshfield

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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Freshfield

On September 14, 1981, a party of four left Niverville Meadows to climb Mount Freshfield.

They gained the summit via the south ridge and began their descent via the south face, down broken, third- to fourth-class rock. The first three climbers on the descent were short roped (ten feet of rope between them) while the last man was carrying coils in his hand. Upon reaching a steep chute, the fourth climber dropped his coils and indicated that he was ready to belay the three below him as they moved together over this difficult section of the face.

The second climber slipped and slid approximately three feet, stopping when he made contact with the climber at the bottom. The third climber was pulled from his footing and fell past the other two but was held by them after approximately 25 feet. The victim (the last man descending) did not have a tight rope on those below him and did not have an anchor or other secure belay. He was pulled from his stance and fell 80 feet to his death. His fall was held by the three men who were now above him. (Source: C. Israelson, Banff National Park)


Two of the climbers were quite inexperienced. The victim had some experience but had really done very little serious mountaineering. His failure to keep a tight belay on those below and the lack of an adequate anchor resulted in his death. (Source: C. Israelson, Banff National Park)

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