American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Avalanche, Climbing Alone, Alberta, Canmore, Mount Lady MacDonald

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

AVALANCHE, CLIMBING ALONE

Alberta, Canmore, Mount Lady MacDonald

On or about March 13, J.F (20) decided to make a solo scramble towards the summit of Mount Lady MacDonald. He was not one to follow the regular path and likely ascended directly toward the summit on the left side of an obvious gully on the West Face. Avalanche bulletins from around that date indicate that avalanche danger was considered “Extreme.”

On June 7, the body of J.F. was recovered by Canmore RCMP from the gully. Hikers in the area reported finding the body. The deceased was in a face down, prone position lying across the fall line with his rubber boots still on. There was a column of snow around his upper arm and the remainder of the debris was flat with rocks embedded along the flanks. These visual clues led investigators to believe that he had been involved in an avalanche accident. The medical examiner’s office indicated that J.F. likely died from suffocation consistent with an avalanche. It is speculated that the victim left the summit ridge and crossed into a bowl area near the top of the gully, where he was caught in an avalanche, slid down the gully to below the teahouse level, and was buried in avalanche debris until the warmer temperatures uncovered him. (Source: Canmore Leader, Burke Duncan, George Field)

Analysis

Although this is not a climbing accident and thus not included in the data, it is illustrative of the problems which can occur when hiking or climbing alone. There was no one there to attempt to rescue him when the avalanche occurred and his family and friends were unaware of his fate for three months, as no one knew where to begin the search.

Leave the following with a friend: your plans and time line, specific route(s) you plan to try, vehicle description and license number, gear description, and who/when to call and your cell phone number if you plan to carry one. If you plan to hike or climb solo, recognize that this increases the risk. Check for the current weather and avalanche conditions. It should go without saying that one should not climb or ski in avalanche terrain when the avalanche danger is posted “Extreme.”

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