AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Slip on Snow, Inattention, Inadequate Equipment, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Lawson

SLIP ON SNOW, INATTENTION, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Lawson

Elizabeth N. (45) and John D. climbed Mt. Lawson (2795 meters), a moderate scramble, on July 9, 1994, and were descending a steep, narrow gully in good snow at about 1430. Elizabeth slipped out of control and slid some 90 meters, partly head first, striking rocks along the side of the gully a number of times, before being stopped by rocks. These may have saved her from a fall over cliffs, but she sustained a broken collarbone, dislocated shoulder, scalp lacerations, and many cuts, abrasions, and bruises. John descended alone to Fortress Junction and phoned Peter Lougheed Provincial Park officials about two hours after the accident. Bow Valley Park rangers were notified in turn, as Mt. Lawson is in their district. About 1700, the victim was spotted from a rescue helicopter on the slopes of the mountain. A few minutes later a ranger was flown to her position by helicopter sling, followed by two moreā€”one at a time because of strong winds. Shortly after 1800, Elizabeth was evacuated by helicopter sling to Bow Valley Ambulance at Fortress Junction and then transported to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. (Source: George Field, Alpine Specialist, Kananaskis Country)

Analysis

These climbers are experienced, and feel they were well within their abilities where the accident happened, but that they should have been wearing helmets and carrying ice axes for the descent. They were using ski poles, which are not very good for self-arrest. Elizabeth slipped when her concentration lapsed, was not able to regain control immediately, and accelerated because of the steep slope. She says she was not cautious enough for the seriousness of the terrain. (Source: John and Elizabeth)