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Avalanche — Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Charlton

AVALANCHE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Charlton

A party of three registered at the Jasper Visitor Center on September 16, 1983, and were cautioned that climbing conditions were marginal. The next day they took the charter boat up Maligne Lake and established a base camp on Mount Charlton at 2600 meters elevation.

On Septemer 18, they left camp at 0800 and very slowly worked their way up moderate snow and ice to a prominent rock buttress about 3100 meters on the ridge. It was then noon and, as it was evident that they would be unable to complete the climb in daylight, they decided to head down.

They descended roped toward the glacier. As they diagnonally crossed a relatively small but steep (35 to 40 degree) snow slope, they released a slab avalanche which was about 50 centimeters high at the crown and 30 meters across. It carried them down about 100 meters. One of the climbers (24) was left on the surface but had an injured ankle. A second (24) was partially buried. The leader (25) had been pushed head first into the bergschrund and buried to a depth of two to two and a half meters. His friends followed the rope and proceeded to dig for him. He was recovered at 1430, but could not be revived in spite of the administration of CPR for half an hour.

The two surviving climbers, both of whom had sustained injuries, returned to their camp, and the next day made their way to Maligne Lake where the accident was reported to the Maligne Tours boat operator. (Source: Gerry Israelson, Jasper National Park)

Analysis

There were approximately 30 centimeters of new snow at the upper elevations of the mountain and moderate winds had formed pockets of unstable snow. Contributing factors to this accident include the failure to recognize hazardous snow conditions and poor route selection. (Source: Gerry Israelson, Jasper National Park)