American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall into Bergschrund, Unroped, Poor Visibility, British Columbia, Bugaboo Glacier, Howser Spires

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


British Columbia, Bugaboo Glacier, Howser Spires

On September 3, R. D. and K. S. completed a new route on North Howser Spire (3400 meters), and after most of the descent, were unroped on a low-angled snow and rock slope about 200 meters from the relatively flat glacier. K. S. decided to glissade the rest of the way, even though the surrounding terrain showed bergschrunds at the bases of most rock slopes.

After sliding about 45 meters, he went over the upper wall of a ‘schrund, and fell some six meters onto a small bench, where he landed on his back. R. D. saw him disappear from view, then traversed around to reach him by an easier route, and found K. S. conscious and lucid, but slightly shocky and unable to move his legs. They decided that R. D. would go out and report the accident. Walking through a badly crevassed area to reach the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col, he relayed a message to climbers at the bottom. K. S. was helicoptered out the following morning.


These two climbers had adequate equipment and experience, but the flat light deceived K. S. into thinking the slope was continuous. He was fortunate that the night weather was warm and stable, and that his partner was able to reach help across a dangerously crevassed glacier. Had R. D. fallen into a hole, he would not have been reported missing until two days later, by friends, as the climbers had not informed Park rangers of their plans. Possibly through elation at their success, J. S.’s judgment did not allow for the hazards they still faced on their return, especially in view of the minimal party size. (Source: Garth Lemke, Bugaboo Provincial Park; and Orvel Miskiw)

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