American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Improper Technique, Stranded, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

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

FALLING ROCK, IMPROPER TECHNIQUE, STRANDED

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

On August 27, 1986, a party of two began climbing the Greenwood-Locke route on the north face of Mount Temple. They reached the top of the easy climbing and bivouacked on the traverse ledge at 3000 meters. They resumed climbing at 0630 the next day. About noon, one of the climbers was hit by a rock dislodged while hauling packs up the steep face and crack system. The resulting injury caused him to lose all feeling in his right arm and hand. They elected to continue rather than attempt the descent, and around 1600, the same climber as before was hit in the right shoulder by another rock dislodged by the haul packs. He had great difficulty continuing, as his right arm was now unusable. At 1900 they reached a small ledge and bivouacked.

It rained overnight. At 0630 on August 29, the uninjured climber attempted to lead the pitch above the bivouac ledge and took a 12 meter leader fall, escaping uninjured. He lowered himself to the bivouac ledge. He had planned to lead the four remaining pitches of the upper face, and the injured climber would follow on prusiks. Since this proved impossible, they found themselves stranded, unable to go either up or down.

The party had registered out at the Lake Louise information bureau, specifying their return on the evening of August 28. As they had not returned, a search helicopter was dispatched the morning of August 29, and the stranded climbers were quickly located and evacuated at 1100 that day. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff National Park Warden Service)

Analysis

While the injuries were caused by rockfall, the cause of this accident was the use of an inappropriate technique; that is, hauling packs on a route where loose rock is everywhere. Climbers not experienced with the loose rock common to alpine routes in the Rockies and in particular the heinous “Black Band” on this route should be aware that local climbers usually learn not to haul gear on this sort of route. (Source: Clair Israelson, Banff National Park Warden Service)

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