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Failure of Rappel Anchor, Inadequate Protection, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Whyte

FAILURE OF RAPPEL ANCHOR, INADEQUATE PROTECTION Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Whyte

On August 2,1986, J.B. (52) and M.O. (35), both experienced climbers, were descending the northwest ridge of Mount Whyte. Around 1530, when they were about 100 meters above the col, J.B. decided to rappel a steep west-facing wall, while M.O. decided to downclimb the pitch. J.B. used a rock pinnacle on the ridge as a belay anchor. He was just beginning his rappel when the pinnacle failed. After he fell and tumbled about 30 vertical meters down broken cliffs and ledges, his rope snagged, stopping the fall. He luckily sustained only numerous cuts and bruises and damaged ligaments in his right knee.

M.O. made him comfortable and then went for help. The injured climber was evacuated by a Parks Canada rescue crew later that evening. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff National Park Warden Service)

Analysis

Extreme caution should be exercised when selecting natural rappel anchors, as rappel anchor failures usually have fatal results. The anchor should have been thoroughly tested prior to belaying the rappel. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff National Park Warden Service)