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Stranded, Darkness, Inexperience, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Weeping Wall

STRANDED, DARKNESS, INEXPERIENCE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Weeping Wall

On March 7 at 2200, Jasper wardens received a report of stranded ice climbers on the Weeping Wall. A party of two climbers was stuck 60 meters above the ground. They had started climbing late in the morning, but when they had completed the route, another party was occupying the standard descent route in the Snivelling Gully. Therefore, the team decided to rappel via a rock descent route on the right hand side of the climb. The distance between anchors was greater than the length of their rope, and their descent was complicated by darkness. One climber rappelled to the end of the rope and was free-hanging. Eventually this climber managed to prusik back up the rope to his partner, at which point park wardens arrived to assist. The climbers did not have headlamps or other emergency equipment and were cold but uninjured. Flood lights were used to illuminate the waterfall.

Following instructions, the climbers lowered one end of their rope to park wardens, who were able to attach a rescue rope to it, thus providing enough rope for the climbers to descend to the base of the climb. The rescue was concluded by midnight.

Analysis

Inexperience is the primary cause of this incident. The climbers were very slow on the route, resulting in being caught by darkness. They were unfamiliar with the descent route they chose, not knowing that their rope would not reach. They did not carry headlamps, which would have been helpful. They did not consider the use of an Abalakov anchor, which would have allowed them to descend unaided. As ice climbing becomes increasingly popular, climbers become very technically proficient and capable, but often lack the experience to make sound judgments. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)