American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Haste, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Yamnuska

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, HASTE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Yamnuska

On the morning of April 25, 1992, Craig E. and Rob G. registered out for a climb of the eight-pitch route “Red Shirt,” about 270 meters high and rated 5.7, on Mount Yamnuska. About 12 hours later they had completed most of the climb and Craig started up the final pitch to the top of the face. He clipped into four pitons as he traversed a ledge, then moved out of view as he went around a corner and upward. Moments later, Rob and another party who had just reached the belay station heard Craig scream and them saw him fall into view and on down the face, crashing into it on the way. Three of the four pitons on the traverse pulled out before Craig was stopped by his rope.

After hearing sounds from the victim below, Randy S. rappelled down to him and found him to have a fractured wrist, a detached ear, and a serious injury to the back of the head (later diagnosed as a basal skull fracture). He secured Craig on a ledge, put additional clothing on him, and bandaged his head with a T-shirt before completing the climb with his partner Cam Q. to go for help. They left an extra rope for Rob, who stayed at the belay. Meanwhile, another climber hiking below had heard the commotion, and called Kananaskis Emergency Services with a portable radio. Rescuers were called into action from Kananaskis Central and West Districts, Canmore Helicopters, Yamnuska Mountain School, Canmore Ambulance, Canadian Parks Service, and civilian volunteers in the area.

A helicopter flew directly to the top of the route and let off three rescuers at 2125, and then was able to deliver four more and a load of equipment before darkness. At 2310, anchors were in place at the top of Red Shirt, and a rescuer was lowered to the victim. A half hour later Craig was raised to the top, and around 0015 his partner Rob was also brought up from his belay platform. Craig's condition was judged to be too serious to wait for helicopter evacuation at daybreak. He was secured to a spine board, loaded on a sled, and moved carefully down the back side of the mountain over snow and rock toward the trail. Because of his head injury, he had to be kept awake by continual prodding. Meanwhile, several other rangers, paramedics, and volunteers started up on foot from the parking lot with medical equipment and Cascade stretcher, which is equipped with a wheel. They met the first team, carrying the victim at 0150, transferred him to the Cascade, and began treatment with heat packs, oxygen, and saline I.V. before resuming his evacuation down the slopes of Yamnuska. They reached the road at 0430 (April 26) and an ambulance then transported the victim to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. He was released a week later with his ear reattached and good prospects of full recovery. (Source: Burke Duncan, Kananaskis Central District Ranger)

Analysis

Although no one saw what caused Craig to fall, that pitch is not as difficult as a number of others which he had already climbed, so it is speculated that he was too eager to finish the climb and did not pay enough attention to protecting the last section or to his holds on the rock. Most of his 30 meter fall was related to distance he climbed beyond the fixed pins on the traverse. Many accidents are caused by the tendency to 'jump the last step.’ The provincial Alpine Specialist also points out the potential of cooperation among various agencies and trained volunteers as shown by this successful rescue mission. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)

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