American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Little

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

FALLING ROCK

Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Little

On August 29, a party of four was ascending the normal route on Mount Little during an Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Assistant Alpine Guide exam. Two candidates were roped together and a third was roped to the examiner. As they were walking along the base of the ridge a large rock fell from the ridge crest about ten meters above them and struck the examiner on the head. The other climbers attempted resuscitation, but it appeared that the victim had died instantly. They attempted to call Park Dispatch by radio, but the radio was not functioning. Two of the climbers descended to Moraine Lake to report the accident. One stayed with the victim and continued resuscitation attempts. He had a cell phone with which he was eventually able to get a connection through to Warden Service dispatch. At this point, it was snowing heavily and the rescue helicopter was only able to land on the toe of the upper glacier. Warden Service rescue crews climbed to the scene and confirmed the fatality. The weather deteriorated further and the helicopter was unable to fly down. The guide candidate descended to Moraine Lake and the pilot and two rescuers spent the night with the helicopter. By mid-morning the next day, the weather improved enough to allow the helicopter to complete the evacuation of the rescuers and the body.

Analysis

All of the climbers were wearing helmets. This is a heavily traveled route, possibly the most popular in the Ten Peaks area. This section of the climb was not known for rockfall. There were no smaller rocks or debris which accompanied the large block and which may have provided some warning. This incident is a reminder that there are inherent risks in mountaineering that cannot be completely eliminated. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Helen Sovdat)

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