FALL ON ROCK, HANDHOLD FAILURE, PROTECTION PULLED OUT
Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Grand Sentinel Pinnacle
A party of three were climbing a four-pitch 5.9 route on this quartzite pinnacle next to Pinnacle Mountain and Sentinel Pass, on July 21, 1994. M.G. was leading the second pitch and about 20 meters out when a handhold broke. Her last protection, a fixed Lowe Tricam, pulled and she fell about ten meters until stopped by a wired chock lower down.
She suffered a serious compound lower-leg fracture. Her partners reported the accident to the Banff National Park Warden Service with a cellular phone, and then lowered M.G. to the ledge they were on. They then fixed a rope from the ledge to the ground to facilitate access to the victim by a rescue team. Another party of two higher up on the route also turned back to help them. The injured climber was lowered in a stretcher to the base of the pinnacle, then down scree and snow slopes below where she could be reached by helicopter sling. She was slung to a staging area and then evacuated to the Banff hospital by helicopter.
Quartzite rock in the area is generally quite solid, and the placement which failed appeared to be good. This may be a case of bad luck, but fixed protection should be evaluated carefully. Rapid notification by cellular telephone was beneficial to the seriously injured climber, although it was a busy time of year and so 40 minutes went by before a helicopter was available to fly the rescue party in. Coverage by cellular phones is also very limited in the area where the accident happened, so its fortunate that the climbers were able to get a message out without moving to a different location. (Source: Marc Ledwidge, Banff National Park Warden Service)