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Fall on Snow, Fall into Crevasse, Climbing Unroped, British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos


British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos

On August 17, 1981, Robert Howard (age about 25) and Bruce Kay were ascending the broad snow gully leading to the Snowpatch-Bugaboo Col. Near the top, Kay climbed off the snow onto rock, while Howard continued on the snow. About 20 feet from the top, he slipped out of the steps he was kicking, slid down a runnel while attempting to ice-ax arrest and was swallowed by the bergshcrund they had passed on the way up. Kay descended to the bergschrund and called down to Howard, who replied that he had broken his leg. He was out of sight, 60-100 feet down, somewhat wedged under an overhang. As he had the rope, Kay couldn’t get to him.

Kay ran to Boulder Camp where a rescue party was organized and a helicopter was summoned by radio. Approximately two and a half hours after the accident, rescue proceedings were started at the bergschrund. Two climbers, one with first-aid experience, descended to Howard and splinted his leg using an air splint from the hut; meanwhile, hauling anchors were established above.

Howard was hauled out by about six people on the rope. Once out, he was bundled up, given tea and tied into a stretcher which had arrived with the helicopter from CMH Lodge. He was then lowered by three 150-foot ropes tied together down the 45-degree snow slope to the waiting helicopter which took him to Golden Hospital. The rescue was completed approximately five hours after the accident. (Source: C. Sadleir, East Kootenay Park District; Bruce Kay, Pam Little)


Less haste and more concentration on step kicking could have prevented the slip. Use of the rope and belays would have arrested the fall. Fortunately the victim remained conscious and was able to put on clothes which made the situation much less serious than it might have been. It was also very fortunate, considering how cold it was in the bergschrund, that competent people and rescue equipment were nearby. (Source: Bruce Kay, Pam Little)