American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Party Separated, Inexperience — Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Rundle

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Rundle

On the evening of August 3, 1983, two strangers, Hugh (26) and Dan, met at a campsite near Banff and arranged to scramble up Mount Rundle together the next day. The easy route follows an excellent trail to treeline and then a scramble route up talus and slabs for several thousand meters to the summit.

The two men set out early on August 4. Eventually it was apparent that Hugh was holding Dan back to a slow pace, so at treeline they separated. Dan was able to scramble to the summit within a couple of hours and descended via a different route following a major gully system which intersects the main trail at treeline.

He did not see Hugh after leaving him behind, and expected he had given up the scramble in the heat. Hugh had said he would likely not bother trying to reach the peak. Dan returned to the camp and became concerned when Hugh did not return. In the evening, Dan reported Hugh missing to the Banff Rescue Service.

An intensive helicopter search was immediately begun. Terrain around the trail is very complex and contains a number of dangerous canyon traps. Three ground teams of Wardens were deployed and just prior to dusk, one party located Hugh’s body. He had apparently followed Dan part way up the open slopes. The route parallels steep cliffs enclosing the gully Dan had descended. It is not known why Hugh slipped, but he had fallen down a 60 to 90 meter cliff. (Source: Tim Auger, Banff National Park)


Although this is not a climbing accident, it warrants some attention. When these two met, they struck a very informal arrangement to go up the mountain together. Neither knew the other’s abilities. The peak seems easy enough to a scrambler with moderate ability, so it also seemed fairly reasonable to split up when they discovered their different levels. However, no firm arrangements were discussed when they separated. A high number of searches result simply from parties splitting up while not coming to reasonable understandings about who is going to do what. Dan might have watched out for the other man if he expected Hugh was going to be following slowly behind up the upper slopes. It is even possible Hugh saw Dan in the gully and fell when trying to take a short-cut to meet him. Although Dan had no strict responsibility for Hugh, he regretted that his going on may have brought the less experienced Hugh to disaster. In most cases, the more experienced should look out for the less so. (Source: Tim Auger, Banff National Park)

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