American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Snow Block, Fall on Rock and Ice, Inadequate Belay, Poor Position, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

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



Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

On September 1, 1992, two Americans, Doug S. and Mike V., set out to climb the East Ridge of Mount Temple. Early fall snows had left the mountain in winter condition, but the climbers proceeded without incident until they reached the exit gullies that bypass the Black Towers. The choice of the wrong gully, and then verglas on the rock, made for challenging climbing. The climbers were on the last pitch before exiting through a cornice onto the summit ridge when Doug, the leader, ran out of protection for a belay. They agreed to move together with the protection of their immediate placements, and Mike unclipped from the lower station. While digging through the cornice, Doug dislodged a large snow block, which went down the gully and struck Mike. He fell about five meters and injured his leg before Doug stopped him. Both climbers then struggled to the top of the gully and up the ice cap to the summit. Part way down the descent, Mike felt he could not continue, so Doug left him and went on alone for help. He contacted the Banff Park Warden Service in Lake Louise at 2400, and a rescue plan was made for the morning. At daylight, the victim was found, stabilized, and slung out by helicopter to an ambulance waiting at Moraine Lake. He was found to have a fractured fibula. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)


The two were experienced mountaineers; however, they chose the wrong gully to reach the summit ridge. Bad weather, causing poor visibility, may have been a factor. The correct gully, right of the one they ascended, may have been easier.

It appears that Mike's leg was broken in the fall, rather than by the snow block. An initial free fall on slack rope places a greater load on the belayer. They are both lucky that Doug was able to hold it from his precarious position. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)

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