American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Unroped, and Stranded, Inexperience — Alberta, Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield, Mount Athabasca

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2000

FALL ON ICE, CLIMBING UNROPED, and STRANDED, INEXPERIENCE

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield, Mount Athabasca

On July 19, a party of two (both 38) were ascending the Northeast Ridge of

Mount Athabasca, when they encountered technical, exposed terrain. One was hesitant about climbing through this section, so the other climber offered to unrope, solo the difficult section, and drop a top rope down from above. While soloing out onto the south slopes, the climber encountered a thin veneer of ice on the rock. With both crampons and an ice ax in the thin ice, the sheet of ice gave way, and the climber fell approximately 100 meters. He sustained serious injuries to his head and both legs. Both spent the night on the mountain. The uninjured climber anchored himself to the mountain with a snow picket, but was afraid to move from his location. The next morning, with two broken legs, the injured climber crawled over the Boundary–North Glacier Col and made his way down the mountain to a telephone to call for help.

A helicopter was brought over from Golden, and two wardens were slung in to the stranded climber. It was dicey terrain, but the rescuers were able to remain on the heli-sling rope, hike up to the stranded climber and hook him on. All three slung off to the staging area.

Analysis

The route was in poor condition, being plastered in snow and verglas. The rock quality on the lower section of this ridge is extremely poor and is generally avoided by most climbers, who prefer to access the ridge higher up. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

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