American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Inadequate Equipment, Exceeding Abilities — British Columbia, Kamloops Area, Marble Canyon

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


British Columbia, Kamloops Area, Marble Canyon

On May 7, 1983, Bob Boonstra (32) fell while climbing at Marble Canyon with three companions, Simon Fitzsimmons (17), Amund Groner and Denis Raimbault. Marble Canyon is a 600 meter limestone exposure located about 120 kilometers west of Kamloops, British Columbia. It is visited occasionally by climbers but has few well- established routes. The following is edited from Boonstra’s account:

We arrived at the Pavillion Lake parking area at about 0930 and decided to climb two different routes to avoid dislodging loose rock onto each other. Simon and I paired up to climb together for the first time.

Upon reaching the base of the cliff (a short scramble from the road), we agreed that I would lead the first few pitches. I set up the belay system using my Sticht plate and anchored the belay to a pine tree on a wide ledge. With Simon belaying, I climbed upwards for about nine meters and put two placements into the crack. A single sling was attached to reduce rope drag.

I was about eight meters past the runner when I slipped. I called out to Simon that I was about to fall then dropped an estimated 15 meters onto sloping rock out of his view. The rope did not pull tight. Simon pulled up the slack (about a meter), secured the rope, and came to investigate. After finding that I could not move, Simon called to Amund and Denis for assistance. They retreated from their position and arrived after about 30 minutes.

Unable to move myself, in pain and shock, I insisted that they try to move me to more level ground. They carefully slid me about 80 meters, securing me in a reasonably horizontal orientation. This procedure took some time because of my condition and the tangle of equipment which snagged on rock and vegetation. When I was positioned as comfortably and securely as possible, Denis left to summon help. Two ambulance teams arrived an hour or so later. Evacuation by stretcher took a further few hours with the assistance of ten to twelve persons. Injuries were later identified as abrasaions to the right hand, multiple pelvic and vertebrate fractures, and a fractured left elbow. (Source: Bob Boonstra)


Simon had not brought a hammer. I realized the potential difficulties of removing pitons and chose not to place any, thus limiting my ability to protect the route.

I was facing difficulty in climbing and protecting the route. Neither of us had climbed this pitch before, and although I could not see likely protection spots and my muscles were fatigued, I continued to move upwards. I did not retreat to consider a second or alternate approach.

Better judgement based on our circumstances could have prevented this accident. (Source: Bob Boonstra)

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