American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Solo Ice Climbing, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountian

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

STRANDED, SOLO ICE CLIMBING

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountain

In December, 1990, a climber went to solo the Cascade waterfall when his partner decided not to go with him; temperatures were around -25C. He took a rope along, but his partner had told him the descent was a walk-off, so he left it at the base. He climbed the first steep pitch but balked at the top one; this left him stranded on a ledge. After several hours he was able to attract the attention of someone below, who then went for help. Rescuers climbed up in the dark and lowered the subject, who suffered frostbite of his feet.

Analysis

With the temperature reaching -35C that night, the simple decision to leave the rope behind could have been fatal. Even in solo climbing, a rope may be essential to a safe retreat if something comes up in mid-climb. In this case, the information that the descent is a walk-off was also wrong. (Source: T. Auger, Warden Service, Banff National Park)

(Editor’s Note: He could see the climb and assess the prospects for descent from where he left the rope, so he must have intended to cross over from the top and descend Rogan’s Gully, as the Cascade is flanked by steep walls. He did not allow for the possibility of finding the upper pitch more difficult than the lower, and the lower one not feasible to downclimb.)

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