American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Slip on Snow, Poor Position, Climbing Alone, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Buller

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

FALLING ROCK, SUP ON SNOW, POOR POSITION, CLIMBING ALONE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Buller

On April 18, 1989, about 1030, Steven W. set out from Calgary to hike and climb in the Robertson Glacier area. That evening, his father reported that he had not returned for supper as planned. At 0320 the next morning, the father reported that he had located his son’s car just north of the Buller Mountain day-use area. A reconnaisance conducted before 0500 led to the discovery of tracks heading up snow gullies on the WSW face of Mount Buller. A search was begun at first light; a pack and the body of the climber were discovered shortly after 0600.

An examination of the gully led to the following reconstruction of the accident. Steve had climbed up snow gullies to a steep headwall at 2600 meters. He was probably climbing during the afternoon when it was quite warm, since he was found with his shirt tied to his waist. His tracks stopped in the snow gully about five meters in front of a gully in a rock face. Impressions in the snow indicate that one or more large boulders hit the top of the snow gully, bounced, and hit the climber, knocking him off his feet. He then fell and slid down the snow gully for 400 or 500 meters, sustaining massive injuries. (Source: George Field, Alpine Specialist, Kananaskis Country)

Analysis

The climber was in a gully in which rockfall occurs frequently, particularly during warm afternoons in spring. He was in the center of the gully, rather than on one side (where rockfall might have been less severe). He was climbing solo. He was not wearing a helmet, though it may not have been much help in this case. (Source: George Field, Alpine Specialist, Kananaskis Country)

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