American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Anchor Failure, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Fay

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Fay

After completing an ascent of the north face of Mount Fay on September 16, 1991, Bill E. and a friend were descending the west ridge, when they reached a ten-meter step. In order to rappel, they placed a sling around a large boulder to serve as an anchor. Bill rappelled first without incident, and then his friend started down. When he was about three meters from the bottom, the boulder anchor came loose and he fell to the ground, then tumbled a further 15 meters on the talus. The boulder then continued to roll down and glanced off his back. The victim is a doctor and initially assessed his own injuries as minor, although he was in pain and had limited movements in his shoulders. He took some pain killers, and with Bill’s help, descended to Neil Colgan Hut.

In the morning, they continued their descent to Moraine Lake; meanwhile, a search for them was initiated late in the morning, after their registration became overdue. They were located, but opted to continue down on their own. Upon returning to the United States, further examinations revealed that the victim had suffered a dislocated left clavicle and a broken right clavicle. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)


The quality of anchors while on rappel is paramount! Because of the geology of the Rocky Mountains, great care must be taken when choosing boulders for anchors. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

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