American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure, Inadequate Protection, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise, Back of the Lake Crag

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

RAPPEL FAILURE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise, Back of the Lake Crag

On July 26, 1994, D.O. (29), a sport climber, took a serious fall at the Back of the Lake, a rock climbing area at Lake Louise. The accident occurred on a one-pitch climb called Swamp Thing (5.9) after D.O. inadvertently climbed past the top station of the route. When he realized his error, he decided to ‘lower out,’ using a # 1 stopper as his anchor. On the way down, he had just removed a # 5 stopper when the top anchor pulled out. He fell about twelve meters and landed among rocks in a shallow pond at the foot of the climb. Other climbers quickly got him out of the water, but he had a severe compound leg fracture, spinal fracture, sprained ankle, and various other injuries.

Analysis

D.O. relied on a single-placement anchor, then further compromised the odds when he recovered his protection on the way down. In this case, he still had some luck on his side, as a fall a few inches either way could have been fatal. (Source: Tim Auger, Banff National Park Warden Service)

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