American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Protection — Ontario, Dundas, Webster's Falls

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1983


Ontario, Dundas, Webster’s Falls

On February 7, 1982, Glenn Yates (21) and Graeme Smith (19) were ice climbing at Webster’s Falls. The following is an edited version of Smith’s account of the accident.

After a good morning of leading on the main falls, we decided to warm down by doing the two sectioned falls about 100 meters south of Webster’s under a bridge. After moving up the short first section to a sloping ice ledge, I placed two screws. As I continued up the equally short top section, my forearms became extremely tired and I retraced my steps to the ledge. Yates then decided to lead the top section. After getting just below the top, his arms started to give out as well and he also tried to retrace his steps. About halfway down, as he was pulling out his ice hammer, the ice dinner plated around his ax. He fell about ten feet to the ledge and was stopped by the rope a few feet below it. Although he did not hit the ground, he suffered a compound fracture of his lower left leg. What happened, we think, is that his crampon caught on the ledge as he fell past it.

With the help of two other climbers, I splinted Yates’ leg, using two ice axes. Someone phoned for an ambulance and the Flamborough Volunteer Fire Department also responded. They carried Yates on a stretcher up the stairs to the top of the escarpment and then to the ambulance. (Source: G. Smith)


An ice screw should have been placed just below the top of the waterfall to provide additional protection. Top roping might be a good idea here to avoid the hazard of brittle ice on these small practice falls. The accident occurred at the same place as a similar accident the previous weekend. (Source: G. Yates and G. Smith)

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