American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Carabiner Failure—Probably Cross-Loaded, Alberta, Banff National Park, Back of the Lake

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001


Alberta, Banff National Park, Back of the Lake

On July 29, A.L. was attempting to redpoint “Howard the Duck”, a 5.1 la sport rock climb at the Lake Louise crags. He had clipped the first two bolts and placed a quick-draw on the third just below the crux. He felt unable to clip his rope into the third quick-draw and began to down-climb to minimize the distance he might fall. When his weight came onto the second quick-draw following his fall, the carabiner clipped into the bolt hanger failed. A.L. fell to the ground. Unfortunately, there was a log where he landed and he was impaled in the back by a branch of about ten centimeters thick and 15 centimeters long. The accident was reported almost immediately to Warden Service dispatch by cell phone. A.L. was evacuated by helicopter to the Banff Hospital by Warden Service rescue crews.


It is speculated that the carabiner clipped to the bolt hanger flipped and became cross-loaded while A.L. was working on the difficult, overhanging moves. The carabiner was still in one piece with the gate attached at the hinge but the other end was blown open and had come off the hanger.

The victim was extremely lucky that the branch did not penetrate any vital organs. It entered his back behind his heart and became lodged between his shoulder blade and ribcage. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)

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