Stranded on Waterfall Ice, British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Pemberton Area

Publication Year: 1991.


British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Pemeberton Area

On December 22, 1990, three ice climbers were on a waterfall at Soo Bluffs. The leader, N.Z. (29), got to within about eight meters of the top of the pitch, and then was unable to continue or place a belay, partly due to thin ice. He dropped the rope so that his two companions could climb around the pitch and reach him from above, but they did not succeed and so went for help. The temperature was about -15C.

About 1600 the RCMP, and then the Whistler SAR, were contacted. As no local helicopter qualified for night operation was available, the Armed Forces in Comox was notified. A Labrador helicopter and a Buffalo aircraft were dispatched to the scene. By the light of flares dropped from the Buffalo, the Labrador retrieved the stranded climber about midnight; he was taken to a Whistler clinic and kept overnight to have his toes treated for frostbite. (Source: Ian Kay, Vancouver)


At best, the leader may have just been a victim of bad luck, avoidable only by staying home that day. At worst, he misjudged the difficulty of the climb and the quality of the ice, versus his ability. At every level of ability, it is safest to overestimate the challenge. (Source: Orvel Miskiw, ACC Calgary Section)