American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Unroped, Handhold Failure, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cosmology Crag

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

FALL ON ROCK, UNROPED, HANDHOLD FAILURE Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Cosmology Crag

At 1515 on March 31, 1993, J.B., a member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, contacted Bow Valley Provincial Park to report that an unidentified climber had fallen approximately 25 meters, coming to rest on the canyon floor of Couger Creek.

It was learned that C.N. and his partner had unsuccessfully attempted a hard route on Cosmology crag; C.N. then suggested his partner go bouldering while he soloed an easier route (5.5) to set up a top rope on the route they had been working on. About 20 meters up, C.N. pulled on a large block, but it came loose and he fell with it, striking a sharp pyramidal stone on the ground, which punctured his helmet. His partner and another couple also climbing nearby came to help him, but when they removed the coil of rope which he had been carrying over his shoulder, they determined he had no vital signs.

Alpine Specialists G.F. and L.G. and several Park Rangers were alerted. They advised Canmore R.C.M.P. of the situation, and requested Bow Valley Ambulance to respond at the Cougar Canyon trailhead. Rangers accompanied the ambulance staff to the accident scene about two kilometers up the canyon, with life support equipment, but at 1541 they reported that the victim had died. A Canmore Helicopters unit arrived at the trailhead a few minutes later, and the R.C.M.P. were flown to the site to investigate. The body was transported by helicopter sling to the waiting ambulance at 1625, and all personnel were clear of the scene by 1650. (Source: George Field, Kananaskis Country Alpine Specialist)


Soloing an “easy” route to top-rope a difficult one is a widespread practice, and there may be a tendency to ignore the hazards of the easy climb while doing so. The use of rope and protection is intended to nullify falls of all causes, not just those that result from pushing the limits. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.