American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Hold Pulled Out, Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Mount Sir Donald

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


British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Mount Sir Donald

On July 30, 1987, following a successful climb, a guide (30+) and his client moved camp for the ascent of the Northwest Arête the following day. After establishing camp, the guide set off to scramble and climb some steep, cliffy rock below the proposed ascent route. After he had ascended about ten meters, a large block pulled loose.

He fell among rocks and onto a steep snow slope. Once on the snow, he gained speed rapidly, cartwheeling downslope into rocks. The fall resulted in compound fractures of the tibia and fibula, and a closed fracture of the left wrist.

While his client descended for help, the injured climber covered hiscompound fracture and moved himself onto a ten-degree snow slope where a helicopter could land. The client reported the accident to a radio-equipped trail crew, and a helicopter rescue was carried out. (Source: E. Dafoe, Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)


This accident illustrates the hazards of solo climbing, even by a person with a high degree of skill and experience climbing on relatively unexposed terrain. Climbing roped with a partner and placement of adequate protection would likely have resulted in a minor fall with no injury when the block came out. In addition, the climber was not wearing a helmet at the time, and could have suffered a serious head injury falling among rocks. (Source: E. Dafoe, Public Safety Warden, Glacier National Park)

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