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Slip on Stick, Weather, Darkness, Fatigue, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Ishbel


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Ishbel

On June 18, 1994, O.M.(45) and C.C.(39) started off in sunshine to climb Mount Ishbel (2908 meters), near Banff, by the South Ridge. After a few hours of routine scrambling and a few interesting spots along the ridge, clouds approached. As they reached a technical step near the summit at about 1700, they were struck by an energetic electrical sleet squall. They quickly took shelter in a cave a few meters down the east face. After about an hour, the weather had not improved much, and as it was not safe or practical to either continue toward the summit or retreat along the ridge, they decided to use the few remaining hours of daylight to descend the rubbly east face, some 500 meters of alternating scrambling down snow-covered scree, downclimbing, and two rappels. In the valley east of the peak, they stopped for some time to eat, pack climbing gear, and shed excess clothing for the hike out. When they resumed their exit, it was dark enough that they needed their headlamps, and falling sleet made the footing treacherous. As they walked down the valley, about 100 meters before a continuous stand of mature forest, C.C. put his right foot on a stick imbedded in the sloping creek bank. His foot slipped sideways, transferring his weight awkwardly onto his left foot. C.C. heard a pop’ and went down in pain. After a few hours under big trees and tending a small fire on a sheet of rock with his unfortunate partner, O.M. began hiking out to the road at first light (0530), and about 0700, he reported the mishap to Banff Park Warden J.O., who was already beginning to investigate the overdue status of the climbers. Within a half hour, a helicopter was on the scene, and the efficient Banff National Park Rescue team, spearheaded by Marc Ledwidge, evacuated the victim to an ambulance at 0830, for transport to the hospital in Banff, where he was found to have a fracture of the left fibula just above the ankle.


This simple injury on the hike out was rather ironic in view of the relatively hazardous descent which the climbers had just completed, possibly a case of undue complacency after the main difficulties. Contributing factors were the poor visibility due to rain and darkness, and treacherous footing, also caused by the rain, and fatigue. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)