American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Overdue, Fatigue, Inadequate Equipment, Darkness, Alberta, Murchison Falls

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998


Alberta, Murchison Falls

Three ice climbers set out to climb Murchison Falls (180m, V, WI4) at 1000, March 27, and were at the base of the first pitch at noon. One of the climbers was ill and returned to the highway, leaving the other two to complete the climb. They agreed to meet at the vehicle after the climb, but set no time, as they believed they would be down after dark.

At 1400 the pair were starting the third pitch. The ice was wet, and the climbers took three hours to climb the final 80 meters. Their only headlamp was left in a pack at the bottom of the climb, and they did not reach the top until dark. It took three hours for the pair to complete four rappels. By 2130 they were at the base of the climb, and were back at their vehicle by 2250. In the meantime, the third climber who had returned early became concerned, and at 2200 called the Jasper Park emergency line to request a rescue. Four wardens were on standby, and two responded to Saskatchewan Crossing where the reporting person was waiting. When wardens arrived, the climbers were safely down, and the rescue response was terminated.


Although no rescue was required, this type of incident is becoming more common with the increase in popularity of ice climbing. Underestimating the time required to complete the climb, not retreating, having inadequate equipment, and fatigue all combined to result in a potentially serious incident. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

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