American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, No Protection, Fatigue, Inexperience, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Athabasca

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

FALL ON ICE, NO PROTECTION, FATIGUE, INEXPERIENCE Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Athabasca

On the morning of February 13, 1993, a party of two from Washington state set out to climb the north face of Mount Athabasca. Their intent was to complete the route and return to their vehicle later the same day, but they were not able to move as fast as they intended. They were forced to bivouac overnight on a small ledge just below the summit. They were not adequately equipped for that, although they did have a stove and a pot. Unfortunately the pot, used to heat water, was knocked over and down the north face shortly after sunset.

The following day, the climbers, although dehydrated and hypothermic, were able to move, and completed the route. During their descent, however, they became disoriented. The lead climber fell on steep ice, and pulled his partner down with him. Both fell an estimated 150 meters, coming to rest in the snow below the ramp on the standard route. One of them sustained a broken ankle, and the other suffered internal injuries as well as a number of broken bones.

Park Wardens had been notified earlier in the day that these climbers were overdue, and so at the time the accident occurred, they were preparing to begin a search of the mountain. The injured climbers were spotted from the air only 20 minutes later, and were subsequently evacuated by heli-sling.


As a result of having to stay out overnight with inadequate preparation, both climbers were dehydrated and hypothermic, so their mental and physical condition was suspect at the time of the accident. When climbing in the winter, extra care must be taken to carry equipment which will ensure that hydration, warmth and energy are maintained in the event an unscheduled overnight stay is required. (Source: Jasper National Park Warden Service)

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