American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Error—Inadequate Anchor, Weather, Climbing Alone, Alberta, Jasper National Park, Mount Snowdome, Slipstream

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

RAPPEL ERROR-INADEQUATE ANCHOR, WEATHER, CLIMBING ALONE

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Mount Snowdome, Slipstream

On the afternoon of March 24, M.G. and C.G. made their way up the Dome Glacier to establish a basecamp below Mount Snowdome. Their objective was to climb “Slipstream” (alpine grade VI, water ice grade 4+, 925 meters). This alpine ice climb forms most years on the east face of Mount Snowdome. The party awoke early and discussed plans. The weather was changing for the worse, and M.G. decided not to climb. C.G. decided to solo the route and departed camp at 0400. He took with him one ice screw and a 40-meter section of 8.5mm rope. His intended route down was the standard descent route to the south. At daybreak, M.G. observed his partner ascending the route.

By midday he was just below the top of the route. Throughout the morning the weather had continued to deteriorate with cloud build up and increased winds. At this time M.C. observed his partner starting to rappel the route. He saw a couple of rappels before the clouds descended and C.G. was obscured from view. About 30 minutes later M.C. observed a large avalanche coming out of the cloud and down the route. Fearing that his partner had been caught in the avalanche he quickly made his way back to the road and called for help. His call was patched through to the RCMP. The Jasper Warden Service was notified at 1630. Wardens on scene at 1650 spotted what they believed to be C.G. high on the climb continuing to make his way down.

However, high winds and poor visibility over a distance of five kilometers made it impossible to be absolutely certain that what they were viewing through their spotting scope was C.G. At 1744 the rescue helicopter arrived from Golden and flew to the route with rescuers on board. The body of C.G. was spotted on the glacier at the base of the climb approximately 900 meters below his last observed position at mid-day. At 1825 C.G.’s body was slung off the glacier to the staging area at the Icefield Center where an ambulance was waiting. C.G. was pronounced dead at the staging area.

Analysis

C.G.’s body was found with the climbing rope passed through his belay device, a prusik attached and the ends of the rope tied together. All indications point to anchor failure being the likely cause of his fall. There was no Abalokov cord attached to his rope, which indicates that he may have been using a bollard or icicles to rappel off. He was found with his Abalokov hook, but his only ice screw was not on him when he arrived at the ambulance. C.G. was not found in avalanche debris, so whether the initial avalanche or subsequent unseen avalanches contributed to his fall is unknown. It is likely that C.G. decided to rappel the route due to strong winds and poor visibility on the summit ice cap. The ice cap is crevassed, so navigating to the descent route in poor visibility while climbing alone would have been very hazardous. The avalanche forecast for the day as issued by the Jasper Warden Service rated the avalanche danger in the alpine as high. (Source: Jasper National Park Warden Service, R.W.)

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