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Fall on Rock, Inadequate Belay, Exceeding Abilities, Alberta, Jasper National Park, Morro Slabs

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE BELAY, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Morro Slabs

On June 22, a family group and friends were climbing at Morro Slabs, a low angle practice area near the road, east of Jasper, Alberta. The group was being supervised by the father of the accident victim. Some of the party were climbing on top-ropes, while others were practicing rappelling. One of the rappellers, Jacob (20), who was relatively inexperienced, was being belayed from the top of the climb on a separate line by a friend, who was using a figure 8 on his harness. The belayer was positioned between the cliff edge and the rappel anchor, but was not tied in to the anchor and did not have a helmet or shoes on. The rappeller was descending too quickly for the belayer to keep up, so he was pulled off the top of the slab and over the edge of the climb. He fell 60 feet to the base of the slabs.

The accident was witnessed by a passing motorist, who phoned into the Parks dispatch. Wardens quickly hiked into the site and stabilized the patient, who had suffered minor lumbar spine injuries and various scrapes and bruises. More wardens flew in by helicopter and evacuated the patient via helicopter sling rescue system to the road.

Analysis

The belayer should have been properly tied in to the anchor point, and should have been wearing a helmet and shoes. A belay directly off the anchor, or at least redirected through the anchor using the appropriate device, would be preferable to belaying directly off the harness in this case. Better communication between the rappeller and the belayer would also have helped. It is remarkable that the victim did not suffer more severe injuries given he was not wearing a helmet and the length of fall. The rappeller and especially the belayer were inexperienced. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Jim Mamalis)