American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inexperience, Alberta, Banff National Park, Cascade Mountain

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

FALL ON ROCK, INEXPERIENCE

Alberta, Banff National Park, Cascade Mountain

On August 30, N.P. (16), C.B. (18) and J.P. (17) left Calgary in the afternoon and drove to Banff to the base of Cascade Mountain. The three left their vehicle and started scrambling up the climbers’ left of Cascade Waterfall. Both C.B. and J.P. had scrambled around the base of the waterfall before, and J. P. had some indoor climbing gym experience. They did not have a clear plan as to how high up they would go and carried no climbing gear, but N.P. later stated that they thought there was a route that would go up to the top of the waterfall. C.B. was carrying a guitar on his back. At about two-thirds up the height of the falls where the terrain gets into steeper cliffs, C.B. slipped and fell about 50 meters into a large crack where he sustained a severe head injury and became wedged. J.P. descended to get help while N.P. waited with the victim. A passerby with a cell phone called the Warden Service, who responded with a rescue helicopter and paramedics. The rescuers stabilized the patient, including intubation and oxygen, and he was heli-slung directly from the incident site to the Mineral Springs Hospital where he died of his injuries.

Analysis

While not a climbing situation, this case illustrates many of the factors that are common in scrambling accidents: The persons involved were young males and even though one had some climbing gym experience, together they had little or no experience climbing in the mountains. They had not researched or planned their route or discussed it with anyone. They picked an objective close to the town and easily accessible.

Local education programs targeted to new staff that include discussions about the hazards of scrambling and free distributions of detailed route descriptions of the easiest route up each of the most commonly ascended local mountains have been instituted to try and reduce the numbers of scrambling incidents. Banff wardens responded to three other incidents of stranded or stuck scramblers in 2003. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service, Bradford White)

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