American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Inadequate Protection, Alberta, Jasper National Park, Mount Andromeda, Practice Gullies

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

FALL ON ICE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Alberta, Jasper National Park, Mount Andromeda, Practice Gullies

On June 4, two climbers left the climber’s parking lot at 0500 enroute to the Practice Gullies (III) on Mount Andromeda. These inappropriately named gullies are similar in difficulty (45 to 5 5 degrees) and are located on the extreme left hand part of the Northeast Face. They are often capped by large cornices. The climbers arrived at the base and began climbing around 0800 on good snow in the shade of the mountain. They moved quickly up four pitches and then anchored to the rock wall. The snow was thinning out and they were moving out through an interface onto ice. The leader set out, and about four metres into the ice climb, his tool placements failed and he fell. No protection was in place yet and the fall force of the fall came upon the belay device that was attached directly to the anchor. It is uncertain what broke or pulled, but the anchor failed and both climbers fell to the base of the climb. A.T. sustained a dislocated shoulder and fractured femur, while his partner C.G. suffered only minor bruising.

A guided climbing party on the Athabasca AA Col route witnessed the fall and sent two climbers down to assist the victim. The guide contacted the Jasper Warden Service via radio and a heli-sling rescue operation was initiated. A total of three wardens were slung into the location where the patient’s injuries had already been immobilized. Due to a large overhanging cornice above the route, the rescue emphasis concentrated on a fast heli-sling evacuation of all people.

Analysis

The leader was moving through a difficult snow/ice interface where his tools were not secured in the ice below the snow. When the climber fell, the fall force of the fall came upon the anchor through the belay device. The belayer was attached to the anchor separately from the belay device and was not able to absorb some of the forces of the fall. A static belay may have transferred the full force of the fall on to the anchor and overloaded it. It is interesting to note that the rope was not cut and that the belay device and carabiner were not found on the rope. This indicates that the carabiner and/or the anchor line failed, allowing both climbers to fall. (Source: A1 Horton, Jasper National Park Warden Service)

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