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Rappel Error — Inadequate Anchor, Alberta, Bow Falls

RAPPEL ERROR—INADEQUATE ANCHOR

Alberta, Bow Falls

On Feb. 23 around noon, a party of three were starting the descent of this Grade III, WI4 route. F.B. lowered J.P. and D.P. from a three-screw anchor. F.B. then proceeded to rappel from a single Simond 23-cm screw. The rope was draped over the head of the screw with the eye pointing up. A system was rigged on the screw which allows unwinding of the screw when the rope is retrieved. While on rappel, the anchor failed and F.B. fell about 60 feet onto shell ice on the intermediary ledge to which the first two had been lowered. He was complaining of a sore back. The rest of the party was assisted down by an ACMG guide also climbing the route. One person was sent to the trailhead to report the accident. A Warden Service rescue crew responded, and the injured climber was evacuated by heli-sling.

Analysis

Using a one-point rappel anchor can be risky. In this case the single screw and rope arrangement failed and it is likely that one of two things happened. Either the screw pulled out of the ice or the rappel rope slipped enough to wind the eye of the screw to a downward position, thus allowing the rope to slip off the head of the screw. If the latter happened, the rope would then continue to unwind the screw completely causing failure. The victim was fortunate that the shell ice he landed on absorbed some of his impact, likely minimizing his injuries. He was later diagnosed with only bruising injuries. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)