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Fall on Rock, Faulty Use of Crampons—Failed to Put Them on, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Collier


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Collier

Two climbers, R.H. and H.B. (50), were descending Mt. Collier (3216 meters) on July 25, 1994, roped together. H.B. belayed R.H. across a 40-degree snow and ice slope, then luckily asked for a belay while he crossed it himself. As he was about to move from steep rock onto the snow, he slipped and fell on his back among rocks, then slid and rolled about 12 meters over rocks before being stopped by the rope and swinging over onto the snow. He sustained painful back injuries through which he temporarily lost color vision and the use of his legs, so he was unable to continue. H.B. is certain that, without the belay, he would have dragged R.H. over a high cliff. R.H. lowered H.B. to a rock step, tied him in to an anchor, and descended alone to get help. H.B. was evacuated later that afternoon by the Banff Park Warden Service, using a helicopter and sling. He soon regained his normal vision, but spent several months recovering full physical mobility, and still had residual back pains eight months later.


The line chosen for the traverse which R.H. and H.B. were doing at the time of the accident was awkward, so the mishap may have been avoided if they had taken a different route. The rock was steep and wet, with poor ledges and holds. Also, the fall may have been prevented if H.B. had been wearing his crampons instead of carrying them on his pack. As it is, it seems they were responsible for most of his back injuries without actually penetrating. He fell on them, causing severe pressure points in his back. In any case, if the traverse had been protected, any slip which did occur would possibly have been neutralized. (Source: H.B., the victim)