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Stranded, Hypothermia, Weather, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Yamnuska

STRANDED, HYPOTHERMIA, WEATHER

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Yamnuska

Rob, Loree, and Bob started up the scree slopes of Yamnuska under a clear blue sky on June 4, 1994, to climb the 5.8 route “Belfry” on Mount Yamnuska. By the time they reached the base of the climb, the weather was changing. Still, they felt they would complete this four-pitch route before anything serious would develop. They were about halfway up when a storm quickly moved in. Rob led the last pitch in very difficult conditions, with water, mud, and rocks funneling down off the slabs at the top of the route on him and his party. He waited for his partners to join him at the top through 45 minutes of heavy rain, but they did not move up. As it turned out, the rope was jammed in cracks in the slabs by mud and stones, and Bob and Loree were wondering why the rope was not moving. They concluded that Rob must be in trouble. Thinking his party may have been injured by the falling debris, but unable to make voice contact with them because of thunder and strong winds, Rob walked down to the bottom of the route. There he was able to hear them, but could not make out what they were saying. So he decided to go for help. He reported to Bow Valley Provincial Park at 1655, and a half hour later, the RCMP approved the use of a helicopter for a rescue outside the Park.

At 1745, the Assistant Alpine Specialist, a rescue ranger, and an RCMP officer flew to the scene with Alpine Helicopters out of Canmore, while a rescue team assembled at the base of the mountain. It was decided that the two stranded climbers would have to be raised to the top of their route, 2350 meters, so as soon as the weather improved, nine rangers were flown up to provide the needed manpower. By 1830 the field rescue leader was lowered to the two climbers and found that they were hypothermic, although not injured. He prusiked to the top, made further arrangements, and then descended with down jackets for them. Another ranger was lowered partway down the pitch to protect the climbers and the rescuer from falling rocks. At about 1930, Loree was put into a screamer suit and then raised to the top within fifteen minutes. There she was placed in a Jenny bag, and slung off by helicopter with a ranger. A half hour later, Bob had also reached the top of the route, and was flown to the base of the mountain. Both climbers were treated there for hypothermia, by Canmore Ambulance, and released at 2040. (Source: George Field, Alpine Specialist, Kananaskis Country, and the involved climbers)

Analysis

Rob feels he and his party were “too cocky” in starting up the climb in view of the deteriorating weather. Loree says they all should have had better clothing for the rain. Already wet and cool when they reached the last belay, she and Bob were soon saturated in the waterspout pouring down the gully off the slabs, and quickly becoming unable to function. Rob got very cold belaying in the driving storm at the top of the route, partly because his rain suit was in a pack with his companions below. (Source: Loree and Rob)