American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Protection, Montana, Hyalite Canyon, Mummy II Route

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

FALL ON ICE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Montana, Hyalite Canyon, Mummy II Route

On November 30, Stefan Mitrovich (26) and Rob (19) were climbing the Mummy’s second pitch (150 feet, 3+/4-). Stefan led out the initial 100 foot, 70° slope with one placement (a titanium and Snarg screw equalized) just below the final steep curtain. Five to ten feet from the top, Stefan paused to reattach a crampon to his boot and figure out the next sequence of moves. After several minutes passed, his two ice tools popped out and the surrounding ice fractured. During his 30-45 foot fall, with stretch from his single 8.8 mm rope, the crampons, tools, and helmet fell off him. Fortunately, the fall caused no serious injury (a bruised elbow). Stefan was able to hike out by himself.

Analysis

The season had just begun and the ice was thin and extremely brittle near the top. A leader should have been questioned. My partner, Chris Lhost, and I had suggested setting a top rope, to test the quality of the climb. Three things should have been looked at: (1) After experiencing difficulties with his (SM) crampons and with the brittle nature of the climb, lowering off should have been an option. (2) Leading with one 8.8 mm rope added, through the stretch, to the length of the fall. This positioned him closer to rock outcrops. One 10.5 mm or two 8.8 mm ropes would have been better. (3) Leading out a great length little with or no protection could have led to a more distant, drastic fall.

In addition, there were several other ice climbing accidents that happened this year, from classic leader falls, protection failing due to “yo yo” style leading to attain a higher point, and to one person jumping off a climb (15 feet) because her rope did not touch the ground. The latter, after breaking an ankle and her tibia, did not know the possible effects of what a fall with a crampon on can do! (Source: John Gallagher)

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