American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall in Crevasse, Unroped, Climbing Alone, Inattention, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Athabasca

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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Athabasca

Nick M. registered at the Columbia Icefield on July 21, 1992, for a solo climb of Mount Athabasca (3490 meters) the following day. He intended to start at 0530, follow the Silverhom route to the summit, and descend by either the standard route or the Athabasca- Andromeda col. He was well equipped, had taken an ice climbing course, and had some mountaineering experience in South America and in the Coastal Range of British Columbia. At 1900 on July 22, the Icefield Centre staff reported that Nick had not returned his registration, and a Park Warden began an investigation. He located the overdue climber's car in a parking lot and determined that he had been seen by other climbers on route near the summit at 1230 that day. Nick's room at the Icefields Chalet was checked for overnight gear, and a description was obtained from staff. Descent routes were scanned from various vantage points until dark without result.

The next day, an aerial search of the mountain located tracks below the headwall of the A-A Col. They led to a collapsed snow bridge over a crevasse. A rescue party was slung down to the site, and they were able to see a ski pole deep in the crevasse. A Park Warden was then lowered into the hole and discovered Mr. M. wedged upside down, about 20 meters from the surface. He had died, apparently from hypothermia.


Climbing alone on glaciers is a high-risk activity. The narrow crevasse into which Nick had fallen was not hidden; open sections were visible on either side of the snow bridge on which he tried to cross, and he should have been able to jump or even step across it. It appeared that he was following older tracks in the snow, but recent warmer temperatures had probably weakened the bridge. Travel was made somewhat more strenuous by recent new snowfalls, and this may have contributed to a poor route selection decision by the victim. (Source: Terry Damm, Jasper National Park Warden Service)

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