American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Lost Equipment, Unfamiliar with Terrain, British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Wiwaxy

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


British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Mount Wiwaxy

“Grassi’s Ridge” is a 5.7 multi-pitch rock climb on the Wiwaxy Peaks (2704 meters) near Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. On July 14, 1994, S.L. and G.W., experienced climbers from Britain, set off at about 1100 to attempt this route, and at 2000 they reached a good belay station two pitches from the summit. They were not sure they could finish the climb before dark, and were contemplating a bivouac on the mountain. As they were about to start the next pitch, G.W. took off his pack to get the water out of it. When he set the pack on the ledge, it rolled off and fell into a gully 300 meters below. This left them with no survival or bivy gear, food, water, or their guide book on how to get down the descent route, just the T- shirts and pants they were wearing, and some technical climbing equipment. They started shouting for help, and campers and hikers at the nearby lodges heard them almost immediately.

The Yoho National Park duty warden was notified by interconnect phone patch from Lake O’Hara Lodge, and at about the same time the Lake O’Hara district warden also heard the shouts, and radioed in to the main office. Two parties of wardens with rescue equipment reported to the Lake O’Hara staging area, where a helicopter was used to sling one of them to the climbers. S.L. was calm, although upset, and was transported to the staging area first. Then a second rescuer was slung up to G.W., who was emotionally agitated, and evacuated him as well.


The couple were not familiar with the route or with the Rockies type of climbing. They followed the guide book Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, and expected the climb would be easy, straightforward, and fairly short. Instead, they found the rock loose, the route finding complex, and the climb long. (Source: Terry Willis, Yoho National Park Warden Service)

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