American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Error — Inadequate Use of Equipment, Alberta, Smith-Dorrien Valley, Ranger Creek

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

RAPPEL ERROR—INCORRECT USE OF EQUIPMENT

Alberta, Smith-Dorrien Valley, Ranger Creek

At 1630 on November 9, authorities at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park received a radio call from M.P., who was at the scene of a rappelling accident on an ice climb on Mount Murray.

After a day of top-roping from a substantial anchor on an ice smear to the north of the R&D route in Ranger Creek, M.D. (36) had removed the carabiners from the top slings and threaded the climbing rope through two Abalakov loops before being lowered to the base by his belayer. During lowering, the climbing rope cut through the slings and M.D. fell to the bottom, sustaining extensive injuries: a broken femur, neck fractures, broken pelvis, a large puncture cut in the left knee, a compression fracture of the lower back and assorted cuts. He was in serious shock.

Park rangers drove to Ranger Creek, while a helicopter was dispatched from Canmore with an alpine specialist. Because of failing daylight and the severe injuries, a rescue had to be performed quickly. (Source: Kananaskis Country Alpine Specialist)

Analysis

Climbing ropes can easily cut through slings when they dynamically rub against each other. Most climbers are likely aware of the risk of this practice, yet some continue to take their chances with it. A rappel instead of a lower would have prevented this accident. (Source: Geoff Powter)

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