American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Cornice Failure — Alberta, Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield, Mount Andromeda

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

CORNICE FAILURE

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield, Mount Andromeda

At approximately 0230 on May 30, two climbers (22 and 23) departed the climbers’ parking lot to ascend the Skyladder route on Mount Andromeda. Later that morning, they overtook another climbing party of three from Seattle near the top of the route and proceeded along the summit ridge towards the summit of Mt. Andromeda. The pair was last seen by the Seattle climbers some distance above them, standing near a cornice. Some time later, when the Seattle climbers looked up again, the pair were gone from view. Their tracks were obliterated by blowing snow, so it was not clear whether the climbers had pushed on quickly to the summit. However the Seattle climbers reported the incident later that day in the event that something had gone wrong.

Park wardens initiated an investigation, but were limited by high winds and poor visibility. On the morning of May 31, the weather had improved enough for a flight over the area, and wardens immediately spotted two persons near the bottom of the Northwest Shoulder Direct route, on the glacier. Despite high winds, wardens were able to sling to within half a kilometer of the victims. Both climbers were deceased, after having fallen 550 meters down a near vertical rock face.

Analysis

In reconstructing the likely cause of the accident, wardens believe that the two climbers were standing too close to a cornice on the summit ridge of Mount Andromeda, either together, or close enough that one pulled the other off when the cornice failed under their weight. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

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