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Fall into Crevasse, Improperly Placed Belay Anchor, Poor Position, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Victoria

FALL INTO CREVASSE, IMPROPERLY PLACED RELAY ANCHOR,

POOR POSITION

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Victoria

On August 19, 1991, David B., Ian F., and Renata S. were descending from Abbot’s Pass hut around 0830, and reached the bergschrund about 0900. They decided to jump the ‘schrund (about three meters) to a narrow blade serac from which they could reach its lower lip. David jumped first, landing safely; Renata jumped next and also landed safely. They placed a T-slot anchor to hold a fall on the uphill side of the serac, and then Ian (least experienced) jumped. He landed on target, but skidded past his belayers into the bergschrund. This pulled the anchor, along with the other two climbers, into the hole. Ian was uninjured and went for help. David appeared uninjured, but Renata had fractured and dislocated both ankles.

Ian was able to negotiate the rest of the glacier and summon help from the Warden Service. A helicopter flight check of the area revealed very turbulent flying conditions, so the first rescue party was dropped off at Abbot’s Pass (less than a half hour’s walk above the accident site). After descending to the injured party, they found that David

had sustained head and chest injuries and would also require evacuation by stretcher. Ground evacuation was initiated, but then a break in the winds allowed for a sling evacuation of the injured pair and the rescue crew. The last staff were removed by 1600. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

Analysis

The climbers had moderate experience and were properly equipped, but the decision to jump a three-meter wide crevasse onto a two-meter wide sloping platform was questionable, as there was no margin for error. A contributing cause was the unidirectional nature and unreliability of the T-slot anchor, and ice ax buried sideways in 15 cm of wet snow. It was intended to hold a fall on the uphill side of the ice blade, but not on the downhill side. The usual technique employed at this obstacle is an “end run” around it. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

(Editor’s Note: In such a case, the skid-past could have been foreseen, and a second anchor set up to protect it, such as an ice screw, or an ice ax embedded deep in the uphill wall of the serac in inverted position, and tied in to the belay system.)