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Fall on Rock, Loose Rock, Fatigue — Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Victoria


Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Victoria

I (35) was climbing with two friends, H.N. (32) and E.D. (26) on August 28. We departed from the Abbot Pass Hut early Saturday morning to attempt a south to north traverse of Mount Victoria. The weather and conditions were excellent, and we were equipped for a likely bivouac around the north summit. We took a brief break at the main summit at about 1100. We continued on down and north along the ridge where we encountered the first of some very loose though not technically difficult climbing. Following this pitch the difficulties eased and the climbing was mostly fourth-class. We were roped and using running belays. At about 1630 and after a lot of exposed climbing we were nearing the end of the rotten towers on the route. I stepped on a large flat rock, which shifted under my weight. I had to jump back to avoid slipping off the west side of the mountain. I had been leading all day and after the incident realized that I was quite tired and set up a belay just past this point and was joined by my partners. We took a break and I asked H.N. if he could lead from there because I didn’t want to make any kind of mistake in the gear placements over the next few pitches. H.N. led off across some steepish terrain that was a mixture of snow and ice, and there was some discussion about whether it was better with or without crampons. E.D. and I decided to wear crampons. Approximately ten meters after the belay, there was a short, steep, very loose down-climb. H.N. was able to place a solid tri-cam at the base of the section, and then another solid midpoint anchor before the easier ground. As I entered this section I turned to face in and gently work myself down through the loose rock and I slipped. It is possible that my crampons skated on the rock, or that the loose rock all collapsed out from under me. The tri-cam was placed horizontally in solid rock and slightly above where I was standing, but was approximately ten to twelve meters away. As a result I took a long pendulum fall, bouncing hard three times before coming to a rest below the tri-cam. During the fall I tried to stop myself and this is what likely resulted in the severe lacerations to both of my hands. Very shaken, I came to rest on a small snowfield. There was a lot of blood coming from my hands. I was belayed on a tight rope to E.D., who was at the midpoint anchor. We bandaged my hands, changed positions on the rope, and I was belayed from both ends across to the leader’s station where we debated what to do. As we reassessed my injuries, it became apparent that there was some potential damage to my back and possibly some broken ribs which were becoming more painful by the minute. It was also apparent that my right hand was virtually unusable. As a result we contacted the wardens by cell phone and requested assistance. We were plucked off the ridge approximately an hour later by heli-sling and I was taken to hospital by ambulance. Injuries included at least one rib separated from the cartilage on my right side, severed muscles in my right hand between the thumb and forefinger and a deep laceration in my lower left palm. (Source: victim)


It is possible that the fall was caused by the climber wearing crampons in the rocky section. Whether to wear crampons in certain mixed terrain can be a tough decision. In this case, one person had made it through the section without crampons, one had made it with crampons, and the final climber was unlucky. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Nancy Hansen)