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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Yamnuska

On July 12, 1992, two Calgarians, R. V. and E. W., were climbing Corkscrew, a 5.8 multipitch route near the east end of the southeast face of Mount Yamnuska, when R. V., who was leading the third pitch around 1300, clipped into one of two fixed side-by-side pins without testing it. He then ran into difficulties and fell some 20 meters, pulling that piton along the way. He sustained head and neck injuries and became unconscious for several minutes. E. W. shouted for help, and was heard by other climbers nearby, and also by hikers below the cliff, who reported to Bow Valley Provincial Park Rangers.

While the rangers were organizing helicopter support in Canmore, as well as other resources for a rescue, two climbers on the cliff nearby abandoned their climb in order to help. They climbed up to the victim, and then with help from E. W., lowered him to the bottom of the rock face at 1500. There he was picked up on a sling by helicopter, and was transferred to the Canmore Ambulance at the climbers’ parking lot where he was taken by ambulance to Canmore Hospital. (Source: George Field, Alpine Specialist, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park)


Climbers occasionally fall while leading, as part of the appeal of the climbing sports is the opportunity to develop personal skills by taking on ever greater challenges. This is why good protection is essential. In this case, R. V. feels he had become too complacent about protection existing on climbing routes, and could have ensured or placed better protection if he had taken along his hammer and pitons. As well, he should have clipped into both pins at his last placement. Even if the other one appeared less reliable, it may have been able to stop his fall. However, he is pleased that he was wearing a full body harness, because he may not have survived hanging inverted for as long as he was on the rope due to his head injuries. Also, he stresses the importance of helmets in climbing. As his helmet was destroyed in the fall, he would likely have been fatally injured without it.

This incident also suggests the value of training in rope systems for hauling and lowering. In some cases, a belayer may not have helped in getting an injured partner to a safe resting position while awaiting rescue, which may be of vital importance in some injuries. (Source: Orvel Miskiw, with advice from R. V. and E. W.)