American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Poor Route Selection, British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Mount Abbott

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


British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Mount Abbott

On July 29, 1987, a party of three was traversing from Sapphire Col to Mount Abbott, a route that requires several ascents and descents primarily over broken rock and stepped ridges. The climbers had ascended the first summit from the Sapphire Col hut, and were descending the northeast slopes of the Dome (2700 meters) when they encountered a 50-meter snow slope. Two of the climbers avoided the snow by descending the adjacent rock.

The other climber (31) chose the snow route and quickly lost his footing. His attempt at self-arrest was ineffective, and he descended rapidly into rock. The slope had a surface covering of loose snow over hard snow and ice. One of the climbers descended the Asulkan Valley to report the accident to the Park Warden Service, who carried out a helicopter rescue. The fallen climber suffered a fractured femur with deformation at the hip. (Source: E. Dafoe, Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)


Late summer snow on north and east aspects should always be approached cautiously because of the presence of hard crusts and melt/freeze ice. The rock route was the better choice. The heavy load carried by the climber probably increased the rate of descent once the climber had fallen. (Source: E. Dafoe, Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)

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