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Loose Rock, Ontario, Bon Echo, Ottawa Route


Ontario, Bon Echo, Ottawa Route

On July 21, I.G. was leading the third pitch of the “Ottawa Route” (5.8) at Bon Echo, which rises 100 meters straight up from Lake Mazinaw, when she called out to seconder C.G. that a large granite block had dislodged and was weighing down upon her. Seeing no boaters or swimmers below, C.G. shouted to her to let it fall. As it hurtled past, it gashed I.G.’s leg deeply. She began belaying C.G. upwards but within a minute or so she called down that she was faint from blood loss and shock. She tied off on her pro, and C.G. made his way to her, self-belaying with a prusik cord. C.G., a retired firefighter, treated the gash to stop the bleeding. He then built a full anchor and lowered I.G. a rope- length to the lake. As luck would have it, the park tour boat was passing by and got her to shore. The gash required 14 stitches in hospital.


C.G. later remarked that it was fortunate the block did not sever the rope as it came down, which would have made this quick, competent rescue in difficult terrain impossible. Though Bon Echo has a reputation for unstable rock, the regulars noted that last summer saw more rockfall than usual. The weekend before this accident there had been two minor accidents on the heavily traveled route “Fanny Hill,” both involving rock breaking off. (Those climbers suffered bruises and minor cuts.) One explanation offered by a geologist was that Bon Echo granite, which undergoes frost fracturing in the winter, was being stressed by the record temperatures experienced during the heat wave of 2001. (Source: David Henderson)

(For the readers’ interest,we present the following report from the Yukon Territory’s Kluane National Park Reserve on their Icefield and Mountaineering Statistics For 2001. It is interesting to note that there were no serious climbing incidents reported from any of these expeditions.)

During the 2001 climbing season in Kluane National Park Reserve a total of 42 mountaineering expeditions were registered. This accounted for 163 persons spending some 2872 person days in the St. Elias Ranges.

The weather was typically unpredictable. Some expeditions hit it lucky and had few good weather days while others had to wait out long periods of poor weather. Avalanche hazard seemed to be higher this year with many different climbing teams reporting a very weak layer in the snow pack throughout the icefields all season long. Some teams wisely decided to abort or change their planned routes due to the avalanche conditions.

As is the norm, most expeditions were to Mount Logan with only the King Trench and East Ridge routes being attempted. Of the 23 expeditions on Mount Logan this year, 11 were successful to one of the main summits (Main Peak, East Peak, or West Peak). Successful expeditions took from 13 to 24 days to reach a summit, depending on weather and the teams’ abilities.

Other mountains that had climbing activity this year included: Queen Mary (six parties); Mt Lucania-Steele (four parties); King Peak (two parties); Kennedy (one party); Walsh (one party); Vancouver (one party); and Pinnacle (one party). The Icefield Discovery Camp was in operation again this season, and its location may be the reason that Mount Queen Mary was a popular destination. Only four of the expeditions were guided. There were also three ski tour expeditions into the St. Elias Ranges in 2001.

Of note was a traverse of Mount Logan up the East Ridge and down the King Trench by a team from British Columbia. Another B.C. crew did a ski tour of the St. Elias Range from Kluane Lake to Dry Bay, Alaska.

Only one major search and rescue operation occurred in 2001. The incident involved the loss of one of the premiere mountain pilots in the area when his aircraft crashed upon take-off after picking up two climbers in the Mount Kennedy area. The two climbers survived the crash, in which the aircraft ended up 30 meters down a large crevasse.

Other public safety incidents included frostbite, altitude sickness, and other medical emergencies. In each case the climbing party was able to help themselves to their basecamp and fly out. (Source: Rick Staley, Mountaineering Warden, Kluane National Park)