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Failure to Follow Route, Overdue, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Andromeda

FAILURE TO FOLLOW ROUTE, OVERDUE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Andromeda

Two climbers were two days overdue on the Skyladder route on Mount Andromeda.

On March 7, the climbers started climbing at 0300 and were at the base of Skyladder by dawn. They climbed the route in mixed weather with blowing snow. They summitted and walked to what they thought was the top of the AA Col descent route, arriving there at dusk. They dug in for the night and had a bivvy sac and down coats to keep them warm, but had no water. On March 8, they woke to poor visibility and strong SW winds. They started to descend the southeast ridge thinking it was the way to the AA Col. At 10,000 feet they left the ridge and began descending the upper glacier, working their way through crevasses and cliff bands. At dusk the second day, they were still attempting to find a route through the crevasses and cliffs, and bivouacked in a gully below some seracs. On March 9, day three at 1100, they began descending the gully to the glacier below, where they were spotted by the search and rescue helicopter. They were still 8 to 10 miles from the highway at this point.

Wardens flew over the area looking for the overdue party, and picked them up on the south side of Mount Andromeda when they were spotted. The climbers had absolutely no idea where they were on the mountain. They were convinced that they were on route and only a one-hour walk from their vehicle, whereas in fact, they were on the opposite side of the mountain descending difficult terrain to the Saskatchewan Glacier. Both climbers were uninjured, but were severely dehydrated from two days without water.

Analysis

Poor visibility and unfamiliarity with the descent route resulted in the climbers getting off route. Although they had a map and compass, they did not use them to find the AA Col descent route. The summit of Mount Andromeda is broad with several ridges leading off in different directions. It is common for climbers to get disoriented here, and end up descending the southeast ridge for a short ways in a white out. However, several clues should have made them question their location. Instead, they rationalized that somehow by continuing, they would eventually find the AA Col. When they were flown back to their vehicle, they were baffled at where they had ended up. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)