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Fall on Ice, Protection Pulled Out-Ice Tool, Alberta, Banff National Park, Professor Falls

FALL ON ICE, PROTECTION PULLED OUT—ICE TOOL

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Shades of Beauty

On November 25, three experienced ice climbers were climbing Shades of Beauty (III WI4), a three-pitch waterfall ice route in the Sunwapta River Valley of Jasper National Park. L.P. (33) had led the first pitch, and at the base of the second pitch, R.W. (35) decided to take over the lead. This second pitch has an initial 15-meter section of steep ice. R.W. led up this for about two meters and was preparing to place his first ice screw. He hooked his tool behind a chandelier feature in the ice and upon weighting it to replace his other tool, it pulled. He fell about two meters to a sloping ice ramp at the base, where his crampons dug in while his body carried forward and sideways, resulting in serious fractures to both ankles. R.W. ended up sliding past the belay to the lip of ice at the top of the first pitch, where he was stopped by L.P.’s belay L.P. quickly constructed an improvised rope rescue system to haul R.W. back up to the belay stance. Parks Canada wardens were quickly notified by radio, and an immediate rescue response was initiated.

A Park Warden was slung in by helicopter with first aid and heli-evacu- ation gear. R.W.’s ankles were splinted and he was slung out to the roadside staging area, where Jasper paramedics were waiting. After initial treatment there, he was flown to Banff hospital and eventually transferred to Calgary hospital, where he underwent surgery the next day It is estimated he will take several months to recover.

Analysis

R.W. was very familiar with this climb, as this was his third time there this season. He is also a very competent and experienced ice climber. Haste may have played a role in this accident. It is possible the hook placement of the ice tool was not weighted and tested before he pulled out his other tool. The constantly changing nature of the ice may have also been a factor. R.W. may have been successful with hook placements the week before, but on this day (a cold one) the hardness of the ice may have made a similar placement less secure.