American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Ice, Inadequate Belay, Inattention, Fatigue, British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Tahumming Glacier

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

SLIP ON ICE, INADEQUATE BELAY, INATTENTION, FATIGUE British

Columbia, Coast Mountains, Tahumming Glacier

For Bob P. and Doug W., August 28, 1992, was day eight of a 21-day traverse of the Tahumming Horseshoe near the head of Toba Inlet. Their objective for the day was to cross a small hanging glacier, find a route down an icefall, and then cross Tahumming Glacier to reach its west flank. After two attempts to find a way down the icefall, they still faced impassable obstacles and so decided to go back up to camp on easier terrain overnight, before reconnoitering the area for alternatives the next day. They had 15 meters of rope between them, and each was carrying 18 meters of rope and a large pack. At 1600 they were ascending diagonally on steep ice with patches of snow, and numerous crevasses around them, when Bob lost his footing on the ice. He landed on his back and started to slide.

Although he quickly rolled over into self-arrest position, his fatigue and the smoothness of the ice made it impossible to stop. When he reached a crevasse, he struck its footwall, fracturing both legs and a wrist, then fell some two meters into the crevasse, where he was held in his harness by Doug's rope. Fortunately, Doug had seen him fall and had time to take a strong belay stance.

As Bob was conscious, the two were able to discuss their problem. In the next hour and a half, Doug set up anchors, splinted Bob's legs, and hauled him up to the surface. They were carrying an FM transceiver with several frequencies, and were able to get a distress message out to the B. C. Forest Service, communicating directly with their Powell River office. A Canadian Forces Labrador helicopter reached them at 1900, and the two climbers were evacuated to Comox by 2015. (Source: The injured climber, Bob P.)

Analysis

Bob is glad that he and Doug had practiced crevasse rescue thoroughly before their trip, had considered the problems of rescue and evacuation in the remote areas they would be in, and had carried a two-way radio in case of emergency. But he feels that the accident could have been prevented by paying a little more attention to his footing. One lesson to be skimmed off this accident is that in some cases, a little extra caution is better than any amount of emergency equipment. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)

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