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Loss of Control of Glissade, Off Route, Poor Position, British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Narao

LOSS OF CONTROL OF GLISSADE, OFF ROUTE, POOR POSITION

British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Narao

S.C. and K.D. set out fairly early on June 21,1994, to climb the north ice gully on the east face of Mt. Narao (2974 meters), and reached the summit at 1630. The leader, K.D., was the more experienced, and decided they would descend a steep snow slope off the west side of the summit. He was first onto the slope and started to glissade, but lost control when he started a small wet avalanche, and slid over some rock bands. He rapidly gained speed, and slid about 200 meters before stopping at the edge of a 25-meter vertical cliff. He sustained broken ribs, a punctured lung, and severe bruises to the right leg and hip, as well as minor lacerations to the head and scalp. S.C. descended to him and they spent the night near the accident site. On the morning of June 22, S.C. started down to get help around 0930. He had to descend about 100 meters of broken technical terrain before reaching steep scree that leads to the forested lower slopes of Mt. Narao.

Yoho National Park Warden Office received a call at 0830 on June 22, from K.D.'s wife, reporting that K.D. was overdue on the climb. Park wardens checked the trailhead and scanned the mountain by telescope. They found fresh tracks up the ascent route and felt the climbers had reached the top. At 1115, wardens who were flown in to view the route at close range found the descent tracks and followed them to the victim, who waved but did not move. Rescuers reached him by helicopter sling, and were told that S.C. had gone out for help. K.D. was given first aid, immobilized, and evacuated to an ambulance at the lower Lake O’Hara staging area for transport to hospital.

During the helicopters last flight out from the accident site, S.C. was spotted on a large snow patch, and also evacuated, in good condition.

Analysis

The two climbers were well off route on their descent, and in very steep avalanche terrain. In fact, they did not know the normal descent route. That, combined with the very warm day, which made glissading difficult and increased the avalanche hazard, contributed to the accident. The victim had had two major climbing accidents before this one. (Source: Terry Willis, Yoho National Park Warden Service)