American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Avalance, Poor Choice of Route, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Plain of Six Glaciers

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

AVALANCHE, POOR CHOICE OF ROUTE Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Plain of Six Glaciers

Two climbers visiting from Europe attempted to reach Abbot s Pass from Lake Louise on May 11, 1993. They turned around due to the evident avalanche hazard, but on the way back they were hit by a large class-three wet avalanche as they crossed a ledge on the summer trail.

J.U. (29) was near the edge of the slide and escaped by pasting himself under a slight overhang, where the avalanche roared over him. His female companion was swept over a short cliff and carried about 100 meters, but luckily ended up on top of the huge deposit with no serious injuries other than a broken leg. J.U. relocated her to a safer spot and went for help.

Analysis

It is unusual for people to approach Abbot's Pass this early in the season. They realized the difficulties of the glaciated basin known locally as the “Deathtrap” as they approached it, but were avalanched late in the afternoon of a hot spring day, on what appeared to be relatively tame ground on the way back down the valley. Also, following the summer trail put them in a position of crossing an obvious huge slide path on dangerously exposed ledges, while an alternative route was available. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)

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