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Falling Rock, Fall on Rock, Failure to Test Hold, British Columbia, Northern Selkirk Mountains, Sorcerer Peak

FALLING ROCK, FALL ON ROCK, FAILURE TO TEST HOLD

British Columbia, Northern Selkirk Mountains, Sorcerer Peak

On July 27, 1994, D. Jones (45) and P. Kendrick (40) were climbing on the north flanks of Sorcerer Peak (3166 meters) near the northern boundary of Glacier National Park, looking for new routes. They decided to climb a steep rock and snow couloir to the crest of a ridge. About 1245, after climbing several hundred meters, Jones decided to cross the couloir to gain the final rock, and stepped across to reach a waist-level ledge on which a boulder of about 0.2 cubic meter rested. He merely touched the boulder, but it immediately slid toward him, hitting him just below the waist and pushing him over. Jones fell some four meters with it before he stopped, and the boulder continued down the gully, brushing Kendrick, who did his best to evade it.

It was immediately obvious that Jones was injured, with massive muscle spasm in his lower back and thighs, which made it difficult for him to stand, but he immediately decided to try to get up to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible. With extreme difficulty and the assistance of a belay from Kendrick, he climbed 100 meters up snow to reach the ridge crest (2630 meters), where muscle spasm prevented any further lifting of his legs. Getting into a comfortable position, he urinated to get a further assessment of injuries, and saw evidence of blood.

Kendrick left for help at 1335, and contacted officials of Glacier National Park at 1700. Due to fire-fighting operations in the park, a helicopter was immediately available. National Park wardens Dafoe and Polster were on board at 1720, and the machine reached the site of the accident about 1745. The victim was evacuated by sling to a nearby meadow, where he was assessed by a paramedic from Golden Ambulance before being flown to hospital in Golden at 2000.

Jones’ injuries included a fractured pubic bone, internal bleeding, and several bruises and contusions on his lower back and legs. Kendrick suffered bruised ribs and minor lacerations.

Analysis

Although climbers naturally tend to trust the stability of a large rock, Jones realizes he should have been more careful in approaching this one, as it was resting on a wet and sloping surface. The climbers had flagged their route through the bush; that helped Kendrick to return to their vehicle quickly. Also, Jones’ decision to move to the ridge crest, as well as his bright-colored clothing, greatly facilitated the rescue, but in retrospect he suggests that a larger party would have provided a better reserve for more difficult circumstances. (Source: E. Dafoe, Glacier National Park Warden Service, and D. Jones)