American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rockfall, Bad Luck, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Banff Area, Cascade Falls

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

ROCKFALL, BAD LUCK

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Banff Area, Cascade Falls

Two male climbers, (26 and 27) arrived from France in February, 1993, for an ice-climbing holiday. On their first day in the area, they chose Cascade Falls, a popular grade- three waterfall climb near Banff.

It was mid-morning on February 26 and the weather was clear and cold: climbing conditions were good. Another party was already well up on the climb, and the climbers were strapping on their crampons when a spontaneous rockfall started in the cliffs 45 meters to the right of the upper ice; a piece, probably about the size of a piano, came out and broke up as it flew down the intermediate slopes toward the ledges at the foot of the falls. The victims could not see the incoming rocks until the last moment because of their position. They were standing on a shelf at the base of the slope leading up to the climb when they were hit. One of them was killed.

Analysis

Rockfall is a fact of life in the Rockies, but is mostly considered a problem in confined gullies and below steep cliffs, and is also more associated with warm weather. These climbers were on a wide slope in almost perfect alpine conditions; this is an instance of very bad luck rather than unsafe conditions or poor position. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

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