American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Fatigue, Inexperience, British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Uto Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

FALLING ROCK, FATIGUE, INEXPERIENCE

British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Uto Peak

At 1700 on July 28, 1987, a party of six cadcts (ages 15-17) and two guides were descending the northwest ridge of Uto Peak. The area is used regularly by cadets for training. On this occasion, the party had started late because another group was ahead, and separation was maintained to avoid rockfall. The descent route was broken rock on a wide ridge graded Class 3 to easy Class 4. The climbers were short-roped.

When they were two thirds of the way down the ridge, the lead guide warned the party not to touch a loose block. As one of the climbers (16) moved past the block, she slipped and dislodged it. The block slid four meters down the slope. On its way, it fractured the lower leg of the fallen climber and the hand of another climber.

Unable to contact base camp with their radio, the party sent a runner to notify the park wardens, and applied first aid to the injured climbers, who were evacuated about four hours later by helicopter in the gathering darkness. The leg fracture resulted in circulatory loss below the ankle, and eventually an amputation was required. (Source: E. Dafoe,Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)

Analysis

The party was properly guided and equipped and employed appropriate techniques. The accident seems to be the result of fatigue, group inexperience, and the difficulties of moving a large group through even moderate terrain. (Source: E. Dafoe, Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)

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