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Fall on Snow and Ice, No Belay, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

On August 1, 1990, a party of two climbed the Aemmer) snow couloir variant to the East Ridge route on Mount Temple and scouted out the rest of the route. Because of deteriorating weather, they decided to retreat down the couloir. They were wet and cold. They rappelled the upper third without incident, and then continued by down- climbing with 50 meters of rope before them, using crampons and ice axes. The 45- degree snow was becoming saturated with rain.

The higher climber fell and slid twice the rope length, where he was stopped by his partner, who then yelled for him to anchor himself and relieve the weight on the rope. When the fallen climber did not respond, the one holding the rope tried to move down to relieve the tension on it, which he could barely support. He lost control, and both climbers fell another 60 to 100 meters.

Both survived the fall and the night, but in the morning the one who fell originally was in critical condition. His partner crawled to him to anchor him to rocks and adjust his position, but despite his efforts, the first one died around noon that day. Around 1430, a wet snow avalanche carried his body another 50 meters down the gully, while the survivor managed to hang on to rocks and avoid further injury.

The climbers had registered with the Banff Warden Service and became overdue the next morning. Soon after that, the survivor was rescued and his friend’s body recovered.


It is not known why the first climber fell initially. His partner was fortunate to be able to arrest the fall, and it is thought that the rope dragging through snow runnels may have helped him. Other than belaying, moving together with only a meter of rope between them or continuing to rappel may have prevented serious injury during a fall. (Source: Marc Ledwidge, Warden Service, Banff National Park)