AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Avalanche, Inexperience — British Columbia, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Mount Robson

AVALANCHE, INEXPERIENCE

British Columbia, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Mount Robson

K.G. and M.J. (both 19) were in a party of four climbers who were camped near the Dome, a feature near the base of the Kain Face on Mount Robson. They left their basecamp at 0600 on August 15 to climb the Kain Face while the other two climbers remained at the basecamp. Their friends last saw the party at approximately 2230 at the top of the Kain Face. A big storm moved in during the night of August 15, which deposited several centimeters of heavy wet snow on the face.

On August 16, the two remaining climbers at basecamp on the Dome returned to Berg Lake, and at 1430 they reported their friends overdue. Meanwhile, the climbers on Robson bivouacked just above the Kain Face with no food and no extra clothing.

On the morning of August 16, the Kain Face was still in whiteout conditions. K.G. and M.J. began descending the face at approximately 0630. They were off route, and were at the far northwest edge of the face. As they down- climbed simultaneously, they were caught in three loose snow avalanches, but were able to arrest their falls with their ice axes. At 1100 a fourth avalanche carried them down the face. The climbers estimate that they were 200 meters from the top of the face when the fourth avalanche occurred. They were found on top of the avalanche deposit approximately 250 meters down the face.

The weather was poor on Mount Robson when the initial report was received. Robson park rangers were able to conduct an aerial search of the Kain Face area later during the day and at 1600 they requested that Jasper wardens attend the accident site for a rescue. The initial report was that the overdue party had fallen down the Kain Face and that one of the party members was moving but the other was not.

Banff wardens were also requested to assist. When the rescue party arrived from Jasper, both victims were moving. M.J. was on the flat terrain below the bergschrund and was sitting waving his arms, and K.G. was 100 meters up slope above the bergschrund, prone, with face down, slowly moving one hand only. They were located below an icefall, with serac fall creating an additional hazard for the rescuers. Poor weather, continuous avalanches from the face, and the threat of darkness were also factors in the rescue.

Both victims were slung out to the staging area via helicopter, where K.G. was med-evaced to Jasper Townsite. Amongst their injuries were broken ribs, collapsed lungs, fractured vertebrae, head injuries and multiple abrasions and lacerations.

Analysis

Neither had enough experience in mountaineering to attempt this climb. This was the first climb for one and third for the other. They had no training in navigation, snowpack evaluation, etc., and had no experience to draw on to make sound decisions. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)