American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Cornice Collapse, Unroped, Inattention, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Saddle Mountain

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

CORNICE COLLAPSE, INATTENTION, UNROPED, CLIMBING ALONE

British Columbia, Selkirk Mountains, Asulkan Range, Mount Leda

On April 10, an experienced mountaineer, Greg S. (40), registered with the Warden Service at Rogers Pass for ski mountaineering, and then skied to Sapphire Col Hut and set himself up for a stay of two nights. With time left in the day, he decided to ascend and traverse a nearby ridge on skis. The ridge rises from Sapphire Col and ends at Asulkan Pass, comprising three main peaks, all about 2800 meters in elevation and 200 meters above the hut. After traversing Castor and Pollux, Greg attempted to look over the east face of Mount Leda from near its summit, toward Asulkan Pass. He was unable to get the view he wanted, so he removed his skis and walked closer to the edge. The snow cornice which had built up over a nearly vertical rock face about 30 meters high collapsed under him and he fell down the rock and into a steep, narrow gully bounded by snow slopes. A small avalanche occurred and he was carried another 250 meters downslope, and lost consciousness for a short time.

Upon regaining consciousness, Greg attempted to climb back up the slope, but collapsed and fell back downslope. He waited out the night, suspecting he had a back injury. Around 1000 the following day, he attracted the attention of a party ascending in the area. This party attended him at the site, and some of them went out for help, contacting Park Wardens about noon. The regular rescue helicopter and pilot were unavailable, so a backup machine, incapable of effecting normal rescue systems, was used. Rescuers were flown to the site of the accident and the victim was stabilized in preparation for transfer. He was then lowered three pitches down the snow slope and evacuated to Golden, arriving at hospital about 1500, or 24 hours after the accident occurred. He was found to have fractured spinal and facial bones, eye damage, cuts and bruises all over his body, and frostbite of both feet and finger and thumb tips of both hands. (Source: Revelstoke/Glacier National Park Warden Service)

Analysis

Greg had the knowledge and experience to avoid this situation, but he misjudged the location of the edge of the ridge, with few rocks for reference at that spot. The accident could have been fatal for a person traveling alone, and Greg was fortunate that another party was in that area at the time. (Source: Revelstoke/Glacier National Park Warden Service)

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