American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Belay, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Victoria

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

FALL ON ICE, INADEQUTE BELAY

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Victoria

On August 20, 1986, three climbers (28, 25, and 21) reached the North Peak of Mount Victoria around 1400. They then descended the north ridge toward the Victorian- Collier Col, the most experienced of the three at the rear. All were wearing crampons and carrying ice axes. A few hundred feet above the col, at elevation 3200 meters, the climber in front stopped on a moderately angled ice slope where the rear climber was going to establish a belay anchor to protect their descent. As the second and third climbers walked down to this point, they neglected to take up the rope between them, allowing 20 meters of slack to accumulate between each pair. As the second climber reached the proposed belay point, he tripped on his crampons and careened down the icy north face.

As he fell, he hooked his crampons several times, breaking his right leg and left ankle. The other two braced themselves and were able to stop the fall, saving the entire party from tragedy. The most experienced climber established ice screw anchors, tied the others to them, and then soloed down the north face and out to Lake O’Hara to get help. The other two were evacuated at dusk by a Parks Canada rescue team. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff Park Warden Service)

Analysis

Keeping a snug rope between party members at all times would have prevented the long skid which resulted in injury. Quick reaction by two of the climbers prevented all three from falling to their deaths down the face and into the crevasses below. The consequences of a slip on even moderately angled ice or hard snow should not be underestimated. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff Park Warden Service)

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