American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Snow, Inadequate Protection, No Hard Hat, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Andromeda

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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Andromeda

The night of July 1, 1989, John (25) and Robert (33) bivouacked near the lower icefall of the Andromeda Glacier. At 0430 on July 2, they began ascending the glacier at the base of the route known as West Shoulder Direct on Mount Andromeda. They started the climb of the shoulder at 0600, alternating leads. After completing half of the route, the lead climber, John, fell. Three quarters of the rope was out, and there were no runners in place. The second was using an ice ax belay. The belay pulled out, and both climbers fell the entire route.

Around 1030, a park warden noticed a pile of gear at the base of the route, and a single person staggering around. Two wardens hiked to the area, and found an injured climber who did not remember what had happened. He was suffering from a concussion, hypothermia, and major lacerations to his left leg. The injured climber (Robert) was heli-lifted out. A helicopter team went to the base of the climb. They found John dead, partly buried by snow. (Source: Jasper Park Warden Service)


Robert had ten years experience in the area, but John may have been inexperienced. The climbers were on the route very early in the season. It was snow covered, and this condition forced them to climb using snow anchors with no running belays. The fall, when it came, was a long one, and it pulled out the belay anchor. Neither climber was wearing a helmet. (The helmets were cached at the base of the climb.) John was found to have died of a massive blow to the top of the skull; he might have survived if he had been wearing a helmet. The fall itself may have been caused by falling snow or ice, since debris was found in the area. (Source: Jasper Park Warden Service)

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