American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Inadequate Protection—Ice Tool Came Out, Fatigue, Exceeding Abilities, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Ghost River, "This House of Sky" Falls

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Ghost River, “This House of Sky” Falls

About 1600 on January 28, after several satisfactory hours of ice climbing, G. R. and R. P. were attempting a pitch near the top of “This House of Sky.” They intended to complete that pitch, rappel down, and then descend a walk-out route to complete their day. After climbing the first five meters, G. R. found a solid stance and ax placement, and set up to place the first ice screw with his right hand. While he was doing that, the ice around his left tool fractured in a large dinner plate, and the tool pulled. G. R. fell to the bottom of the pitch, and slid down the snow slope until the rope stopped him. He suffered a simple fracture of both bones of the lower left leg just above the ankle. Another party was on the route. They assisted in stabilizing G. R. and went out of their way to ensure that he was comfortable, and to help R. P. with arranging helicopter evacuation for G. R., through Kananaskis Emergency Services. Because of the remoteness of the location, the rescue was not completed until well past optimum light for flying. G. R. reached Canmore Hospital at about 1720.


These intermediate climbers had been climbing together for two years, but this was only their second outing of the season, and both were using unfamiliar ice tools, in which a lack of confidence had developed during the day. Also, both were somewhat fatigued when they reached the last pitch, and knew it would stretch their technical skills. Unfortunately, none of these concerns were mentioned at the time. The desire to complete the climb on a high note took precedence. A party should discuss its plans and limitations before setting out. (Source: Climber R. P.)

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