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Slip on Mixed Terrain, Inadequate Equipment (Ice Ax in Pack), Exceeding Abilities, Alberta, Banff National Park, Cascade Mountain


Alberta, Banff National Park, Cascade Mountain

The story behind this accident was largely pieced together from the evidence gathered during the lengthy search that was required to locate and recover the victim’s body. The victim, P.O. (19), planned on climbing the south face of Cascade Mountain with two friends. P.O.’s day off work (June 23) arrived a day before the other two were available, so he told one of the others he would head up the lower part of the mountain alone to reconnoiter the route which they would try the next day together. When he failed to return that night, his friends notified Warden Service dispatch and a search commenced. His body was finally located on July 7.


The south face of Cascade Mountain is 1200 meters high and consists mostly of steep scree gullies and rock slabs. In June of 2000, snow still covered about two-thirds of the route due to an unseasonably cold spring.

It was determined that P.O., using crampons and an ice ax, kicked steps in snow gullies well up the face. When he reached dry rock and open scree, he removed and packed his crampons and ice ax. Several hundred meters higher he was forced to traverse left across a wide snow bowl at the head of the main gully system. Apparently, to avoid the need to stop and get the crampons and ice ax out of his pack, he tried to follow a narrow, down-sloping ledge of dry rock. When he slipped and fell off, he landed on the hard snow below. Without his ice ax he was unable to self-arrest. He fell about 300 meters down the main gully, then slipped into a small moat and was covered by snow that had dislodged during his fall. He died of multiple trauma.

P.O. came to western Canada to climb. He had trained in the east and had obtained the proper equipment. The late spring conditions were likely frustrating to him, as they were to many. The south face of Cascade Mountain is one of the closest mountain climbs to downtown Banff. It is not the usual route to the top, but the angle is mostly moderate, so when P.O. found the step-kicking straightforward, his reconnaissance must have turned into an irresistible urge to bag his first Rockies summit. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)