American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Placed No Protection, Exceeding Abilities, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Tunnel Mountain, Gooseberry Route

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 1992

FALL ON ROCK, PLACED NO PROTECTION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Tunnel Mountain, Gooseberry Route

Two climbers reached the small belay stance at the end of pitch three on the route “Gooseberry” (5.8). This is a popular local eight-pitch climb which sees a lot of traffic. The steeper climbing is fairly clean, but the scrambling is loose. The leader climbed five or six meters above the belayer on pitch four, and fell before placing any protection. The belayer was anchored to two bolts and held the fall, but the victim, in falling some 15 meters, was knocked unconscious, broke both wrists, and ended up hanging ten meters below the belay.

The belayer was able to secure the victim and attract the attention of hikers, who then summoned help. The rescue was held up by a rain squall before park wardens were able to sling in to the stance at the belay. A rescuer was lowered to the victim, and rigged him so he was able to be picked off directly with a line from a helicopter. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)


Pitch four consists of a few meters of “thin” climbing above the belay, then crosses a ledge. The trick is to treat the easy climbing with as much respect as the steeper sections, and place some protection before the ledge.

The victim was hanging on the rope for almost two hours and soaked by a storm in the meantime. Luckily, the accident happened close to town, where calls for help were more likely to be heard, as the climbers had no resources to help themselves further. The key to the operation was some technical flying by an experienced rescue pilot. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

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