American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Faulty Use of Crampons, Placed No Protection — New York, Adirondacks

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

FALL ON ICE, FAULTY USE OF CRAMPONS, PLACED NO PROTECTION

New York, Adirondacks

On January 29, 1984, Vic Benes fell during the approach to an ice climb on the south side of Lower Cascade Lake off Route 73 in the Adirondacks. The fall occurred after he lost his balance while remounting a crampon which had twisted off. He quickly picked up speed on ice, then bounced over boulders that protruded through the snow on the talus slope, traveling about 30 meters altogether. His climbing partners (Dan Abraham, Dave Cass, Frank Gibney, and Tom Yandon) at once descended to help him, and since he was ready and able to assist, it was decided to evacuate him at once, although he had received heavy shocks to the lower back. With the help of trees and friends’ arms and shoulders, he was able to descend the talus slowly. Diagnosis at Lake Placid Memorial Hospital: broken nose, two cracked vertebrae, contusions. (Source: Vic Benes)

Analysis

This fall was the culmination of several errors and circumstances. The (flexible) crampons in question had been refitted carefully from Mouse to plastic boots, but the new setup had not been tested; Benes had used rigid crampons for years, and did not appreciate how much one has to tighten the flexibles; the crampon had already come off once, right after he put it on and before he started up. This event should have warned that something could be seriously wrong with the system. After the crampon came off the second (final) time, he might have anchored his tools in ice for a belay before again readjusting the spikes. (Source: Vic Benes)

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