FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT—LEADER AND RELAYER, DEHYDRATION/FATIGUE
Ontario, Ron Echo Provincial Park, “Ottawa” Route
On September 4, J. N.(47) was leading the second pitch of “Ottawa” (5.7), belayed by M. C.(22), when he fell while attempting the crux of the route. J. N. sustained a contusion to his right thigh and abrasions to his right hand. He then set up an intermediate belay stance, using two rusted fixed pitons just below the crux, one of which had just held his fall, to bring up M. C. When M. C. arrived, J. N. told him they should descend about five meters to a good crack and set up a ‘state of the art’ belay, but M. C. had already led that section twice that summer and said there was no reason he should fall.
M. C. took the rack, and started up the crux moves. He clipped a runner over the neck of one of the belay pitons, as its eye was used for the belay setup, then continued climbing. He placed one more piece, and then about four meters above the belay, M. C. called out, “Falling.” His protection pulled out and he fell past J. N., causing a nearfactor-two load on the belay. The belay anchor failed, and both climbers fell about 55 meters into Mazinaw Lake, where they sank rapidly under the weight of their gear.
M. C. sustained a broken neck on impact with the water, became unconscious, and drowned. J. N. managed to disengage himself from him, swim to the surface in overwhelming pain, and hang onto a hold until he was reached by boat. He had suffered a crushed thoracic vertebra, two broken ribs, chest compression, deformation of the spine, and strained muscles, ligaments, and tendons in his back. M. C. was recovered from the water after being submerged about ten minutes, but did not respond to efforts to revive him. Authorities were notified, and members of the ARC Toronto Section assisted in investigating the accident.
J. N. and M. C. were climbing within their abilities, but had been at it all day when they attempted this route as a last effort. Dehydration caused by several hours of exertion at 25-30° C may have weakened them, and one of them mentioned that their last climb had taken a lot out of him. Also, it had rained the previous evening, so the route may have had slippery sections. In any case, after J. N.'s fall, his injuries were serious enough for the climbers to retreat, but they unfortunately decided to continue. Finally, J. N. used questionable anchor pitons directly below the crux moves for his intermediate belay, when a more secure stance was available at the top of a ramp to his right. The accident may have been prevented by greater caution, as any one of the following actions would have saved them: retreating after J. N.s scrape, belaying from a reliable anchor, or placing adequate protection. Basic security should be the top priority. (Source: J. N., W. Lansing, ACC paramedic, and Robert Stock)