American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Alberta, Banff National Park, Moraine Lake, Schiesser Ledges Route

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

FALL ON ROCK

Alberta, Banff National Park, Moraine Lake, Schiesser Ledges Route

On July 23, G.A. (62) was a member of a guided party that was on a multiday traverse in the ten peaks area in Banff National Park. The party had climbed up to The Neil Colgan Hut from the Fay Hut and had spent two days ascending peaks in the vicinity of the hut. On the day of the accident, they had descended from the hut down the Schiesser Ledges route and had finished all of the down-climbing and rappels. They had unroped and taken off their harnesses and helmets and were walking down the moraine towards Moraine Lake when G.A. fell off the side of the moraine and tumbled about 50 meters down the steep side wall. The guide quickly climbed down to him and found him unconscious from a head injury and facial trauma. One of the members of the party used the handheld radio that the group carried and began transmitting “Mayday!” over the Park’s frequency. Eventually dispatchers and rescue crews were able to make two-way contact with the reporting person and determine where the accident had taken place. G.A. was heli-slung from the site by HRFS and transported by Air and Stars Air Ambulance to Calgary.

G.A. spent two weeks in hospital and had full expectation of recovery from his injuries, but shortly after he was transferred from the ICU, he developed blood clots and subsequently died.

Analysis

In the kind of terrain where G.A. fell, most anybody would walk comfortably unroped. The top of the moraine at that point was several meters wide. G.A. had spent several days previously in much more technical terrain and according to the guide had demonstrated surefootedness and a good tolerance for exposure. There is conjecture that G.A. may have suffered some loss of consciousness before his fall, but he could not remember any of the details of the incident and none of the party witnessed the events prior to seeing him actually falling down the side of the slope. It is good practice for guides to teach guests how to operate the two-way radios they carry and instruct them on what information to relay if they have to call in for assistance. A clear description of the problem and the exact location of the incident are the most important to rescue crews.

A sad footnote to this story is the fact that G.A.’s wife had died two years previously on a guided ski trip in the Alps and this trip was G.A.’s first return to the mountains since that incident. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Bradford White)

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