American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow — Unable to Self-Arrest, Inadequate Equipment, Inexperience, British Columbia, Canadian Rockies, Castle Glacier

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010

FALL ON SNOW – UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, INEXPERIENCE,

British Columbia, Canadian Rockies, Castle Glacier

On Aug 3rd J.C. (22) and A.T. (24), on a day off from their university geology field trip, left their camp located at the base of Castle Glacier to ascend a nearby peak. They had to cross a crevassed glacier and ascend a loose rock rib to the summit. They brought crampons, bear spray, and a daypack. From the summit they decided to descend via a different route.

Descending the peak at 1230, they encountered very broken and friable rock that led them to a snow gully. At the top of the snow slope the party decided to put their crampons on. A.T. had one crampon on when his pack started to slide away. He lunged for the pack, lost his balance and began to slide uncontrollably down the snow slope. He hit a rock and continued sliding and eventually fell into a ten meters deep bergschrund. J.C. down climbed and entered the bergschrund from the side to assist A.T. Together, they walked out of the side of the bergschrund. A.T. did lose consciousness momentarily during his slide after hitting the rock, broke his wrist, and received several minor scalp lacerations.

The party was able to call out on their satellite phone to the helicopter company that flew the camp in. The helicopter company initially responded but quickly realized that a heli-sling rescue would be required. The Provincial Emergency Program was contacted who then requested the assistance of Jasper National Park (JNP) Public Safety Specialists. JNP Public Safety Specialists responded and, using map coordinates from the helicopter company, located the subjects and safely evacuated them using a heli-sling.

Analysis

The climbers had limited to no experience in glaciated alpine terrain. They had no rope, ice axes, helmets, harness, only crampons and daypack. However, having a satellite phone was invaluable to call for assistance. As a result, they were successfully rescued from their predicament. (Source: G. Lemke, Public Safety Specialist, Jasper National Park)

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