FALL ON SNOW
British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Assiniboine
On August 18, 1981, after spending the night in the Hind Hut, Russell Reno and his son ascended Mount Assiniboine via the northwest face and north ridge. On the descent, they decided not to rope up for the snow slope on the northwest face, as they would be moving together and the slope was only 45-50°. They were wearing crampons.
About halfway down the snow slope, Reno, who was descending facing out, slipped. Although his ice ax was in the snow almost to the hilt, it pulled out. By the time he rolled onto his stomach, he was moving very fast and his self-arrest was not effective. He slid some 500 vertical feet, over the bergschrund and onto the glacier, bouncing over ice hummocks on the way. He broke several ribs and sustained a compression fracture of a vertebra.
His son assisted him to the hut and then descended to the Ranger Station at Lake Magog to radio for assistance. After being given first aid, Reno was helicoptered to Banff Hospital. (Source: C. Sadleir, East Kootenay Park District and V. R. Reno)
If I had been descending the slope facing inwards, I am sure I would have been able to arrest the slip since I would have fallen on my stomach rather than on my back. On the other hand, the angle of the slope was such that ordinarily there would have been no danger in facing outward while descending. If I had not been wearing a helmet, I would have suffered head injuries as I bounded along during the fall. (Source: R. Reno)
This accident illustrates the need to practice ice-ax arrest regularly so that reactions to a slip become almost automatic and an arrest can be done very quickly. (Source: R. Reader)