American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Robson

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

FALL ON SNOW

British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Robson

On August 1, 1986, Ken Nelson (42) and Mark Strother (28) set out with two other climbers to ascend the south-west face of Mount Robson (3954 meters). The two others turned back on August 12 because of high winds and the difficulty of the climb. They got back to the hut at the 2400 meter level about 1300 and saw Strothers and Nelson ascend into cloud cover about 3000 meters. They remained at the hut that night and the next, then descended to the trailhead and parking lot, where they stayed the night of August 14. When there was still no sign of Strothers and Nelson on August 15, they reported to the Valemont RCMP.

A helicopter search conducted by the RCMP and Jasper Park Warden Service located the trail of the two climbers about 3450 meters. They followed the trail to within 30 meters of the top, at which point footprints traversed about 15 meters across the west face and disapeared.

Late the same day, the bodies of the two missing climbers were recovered at the 2880 meter level. The fall probably happened late August 12 or August 13. (Source: Calgary Herald, August 17, 1986)

Analysis

There was no sign of an avalanche. Either something hit them from above or one of the climbers slipped. It will never be known exactly what happened, but it is likely that it was so cloudy that they could not see the proper route when they got to within 30 meters of the summit. According to the victims’ families, both from Snohomish County in Washington, the men were seasoned climbers, although they had never climbed Robson before. (Source: RCMP Constable Hugh Menzies, quoted in the Calgary Herald and The Seattle Times, August 17, 1986)

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