British Columbia, Yoho National Park, Lake O'Hara, Abbott Pass
Two climbers were ascending the steep approach gullies to Abbott Pass from Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park on July 25. They were packing heavy packs, planning a few days climbing from the hut at the pass. At 1730, one of them noticed a football sized rock coming towards them. He shouted a warning, but his partner (40) was not able to move in time. A.P. was struck
in the head and killed by rockfall while ascending the last 150 metres to the pass and the hut. The custodian at the hut was able to contact the warden service right away on the emergency phone. The deceased and her partner were evacuated by helicopter later the same day.
The victim’s helmet was on her pack, but it is unlikely that it would have saved her life given the size of the rockfall and the injuries sustained. Picking protected locations for breaks, moving quickly between safe zones, and traveling during the cold early morning parts of the day are possible mitigating measures. The unfortunate party was witnessed as being tight to the Victoria side of the approach gully. The marked trail (blue squares of paint) is in the middle of the gully at this point. Remaining on the marked trail would likely have been safer as there is considerable threat from falling rock off the side of Mount Victoria. Parties should also communicate with any other parties in the gully at the same time and take care to their safety. (Source: Percy Woods, Yoho National Park Warden Service, Barry Blanchard)