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Fall on Ice, Climbing Unroped, Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Aberdeen, North Glacier

FALL ON ICE, CLIMBING UNROPED

Alberta, Banff National Park, Mount Aberdeen, North Glacier

On October 14, a party of five was climbing the lower tongue of this snow and ice route. The party solo climbed the ice tongue until the angle reached about 45 degrees, and then they stopped to set up a belay. One of the climbers fell, tumbling about 200 meters into talus below the ice. Two of the party members rappelled to him while two others lower on the ice down-climbed. They reached him in about ten minutes, where they joined a mountain guide who had reached G.L. first. G.L. was unconscious but regained partial consciousness after some time. He was in critical condition with head injuries, abdominal trauma, and an ankle fracture. One of the members ran out for help. Another found G.L.’s cell phone and climbed up to a pass to get reception. He was able to reach the Warden Service, saving a significant amount of time for the initiation of the rescue. The patient was evacuated by heli-sling to Lake Louise. He was later transferred to Calgary by air ambulance. The victim survived his injuries.

Analysis

Soloing “easy” ice is common. However, even on low angled ice a slip will result in very rapid acceleration and a potentially long fall. Climbers should consider this risk before deciding to solo climb. It is not known how long it was before the party was able to make cell phone contact to request help, but it likely saved at least one hour. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Sandy Sauer)