American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Overdue, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park, Mount Geraldine

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

OVERDUE

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park, Mount Geraldine

Two inexperienced climbers read the route description for Mount Geraldine in a local guidebook and decided that this was a reasonable objective for low- end climbers. Although Mount Geraldine is not technically difficult (mostly class 3), it is a very long one-day climb on steep and often loose quartzite, with a very difficult and steep descent. This was the fourth mountain the couple had ever climbed and the first in the Canadian Rockies. They departed the Geraldine Trail Head at 0900 on August 6, and took three hours to reach the base of the ridge (normally reached in an hour). They climbed the third class ridge (usually short roped, if a rope is used) in roped pitches, resulting in very slow progress. At 2200 they stopped to bivouac. They were out of water, but had lots of food. At 0600 on August 7, they started climbing again. They climbed through the day until 1930 when they made a second bivouac. At 0600 on August 8, they resumed climbing and reached the summit at 0900. The climbers were still on the summit at 1000 when rescuers made a fly-by.

Once rescuers located the overdue party by helicopter, they returned to the staging area to prepare for a heli-sling evacuation. By the time the rescuers were airborne again, the climbing party had gone part way down the descent gully from where they were evacuated by heli-sling.

Analysis

The climbers were very inexperienced. They were carrying heavy packs that included sleeping bags and foam pads, a fleece blanket, iodine, four quarts of water, and a map and compass. They had a full rock rack and full length 11mm rope. They assumed that it would be easier to go down the recommended descent route than to descend the ridge, and therefore kept climbing up instead of retreating when the ridge became intimidating. The route description in the guidebook made the route sound easier than it is, and makes no mention of the difficulty of the descent. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.