Fall on Ice, Unroped, Alberta, Banff National Park, Johnston Canyon

Publication Year: 2004.


Alberta, Banff National Park, Johnston Canyon

On February 13, L.R. (26) and her boyfriend (L.) were doing some ice climbing at the upper falls in Johnston Canyon, a popular area of one pitch top-ropeable ice climbs. L.R. unclipped from the belay station, which was about ten meters up some low-angle ice from the canyon bottom, and climbed down to her pack to get some water. On the climb back up to the stance she slipped and fell back down to the bottom, catching her crampon and breaking her ankle and lower leg in the process. Passers by descended to the phone at the bottom of the trail and called the Warden Service to report the accident. Meanwhile L. fashioned an improvised splint from ice tools and a jacket and began to piggy-back carry L.R. down the trail. A rescue crew of wardens and paramedics met the pair part way, re-splinted the leg, administered morphine for the pain and wheeled the patient down to the ambulance in the wheeled stretcher.


It is unlikely that most parties would have belayed on the low angle ice where L.R. fell, but this incident shows the possible consequences of even a simple slip in low-angle terrain. While L. showed his self-reliance capabilities in this case by improvising a splint and beginning a self-rescue, L.R.’s lower leg was quite badly broken, the splint did not immobilize the knee, and she was in considerable discomfort while being carried. In a location like this where rescue response was close by it would have been a better choice of action to have made the patient warm and comfortable and wait for a rescue team rather than risk farther complications to the leg injury. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Bradford White)

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