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Fall Through Cornice, Unroped, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Columbia Icefield

FALL THROUGH CORNICE, UNROPED

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Columbia Icefield

On April 23, 1989, Chris (33) and William (38) had just completed an ascent of Slipstream. They were walking along the corniced edge of Snow Dome looking for the descent route. Around the fourth or fifth gully to the south of Slipstream, William decided to probe his way, unroped, to the edge for a better view of possible routes in the area. A small piece of cornice broke off and he disappeared from view. His partner was unable to approach the edge to attempt to make contact or to ascertain his fate. William was never seen again.

Chris arrived at Sunwapta Warden Station at 0200 on April 4, and at 0600 a search was begun, both by helicopter and on the ground. The search area was two gullies which feed onto a major avalanche fan which flows into an icefall. The search continued until April 9, when a major icefall covered the area with debris. Nothing was found. In summer, on August 7, a helicopter search led to the discovery of a red tape sling and a blue pack. The pack was 30 meters down a crevasse, and was retrieved, but the climber’s body was never found. (Source: Patrick Sheehan, Jasper Park Warden Service)

Analysis

The climbers were unroped in a hazardous area, and one of them walked too close to a corniced ridge. Both climbers were advanced winter mountaineers. The victim had climbed in the area about eight times, and the two had done about ten climbs together since December 1988. (Source: Jasper Park Warden Service)