American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Error — Inadequate Protection, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Murchison, Murchison Falls

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


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Murchison, Murchison Falls

On November 23, a party of two were beginning the rappel descent of this waterfall route (180m, V, WI4). On their third rappel, the first climber got part way down the ropes, yelled, and fell down a few hundred feet to the bottom of the route. His partner (along with another nearby party of two) continued down uneventfully. They determined from his massive head injuries that P.E. was dead and walked out for assistance. They reported the accident late that night to the Warden Service. The victim was evacuated the next morning by heli-sling.


The climber was not using a prussik to back up his rappel and he was using an ATC to rappel on two 8.5mm ropes. The ends of the rappel ropes were not knotted. When rappelling on small diameter ropes, extra caution must be used as there is less friction and it is therefore easier to lose control of the rappel. In this case it is possible that the ropes were wet or iced, and that may have contributed to losing control of the rappel. Having no backup did not leave any room for error. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

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