American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Exhaustion, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Louise Falls

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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Louise Falls

On December 31, 1981, two men were ice climbing on Louise Falls at Lake Louise. The leader was making the final move when he fell approximately 50 feet. His fall was held by his belayer and a five-inch ice screw runner. He was knocked unconscious and remained so for approximately ten minutes. His helmet was smashed and he suffered facial abrasions and a fractured skull. Upon regaining consciousness, he was lowered by his belayer to the belay station, then another full rope length from the belay station to a ledge with an established anchor. His belayer then untied and dropped the rope to his partner who clipped the rope through the anchor and dropped the rope to the rescue team below. He was lowered the remaining pitch and evacuated by toboggan and skidoo. The belayer walked off the falls and down to a spot where he could be lowered to safety by the rescue team. (Source: C. Israel- son, Banff National Park)


The men were both from New York State and were unfamiliar with winter water ice in the Rockies. The exit on this climb requires an awkward horizontal reach to place a tool into solid ice. The climber cannot remember how he fell, but we assume that as he reached forward to place his ice tool, he leaned in over the flat “top” of the ice pillar and levered his front points out of the ice.

The climber was cold and tired and in a hurry to finish the climb. (Source: C. Israelson, Banff National Park)

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