Three takeaways from Canadian Accidents in the 2018 ANAC


Editor's note - Accidents in North American Climbing (ANAC) is an annual compendium of climbing accident reports in the United States and Canada. Since 1948, the American and Canadian Alpine Clubs have provided an annual summary of the year’s most significant and teachable climbing accidents. The Alpine Club of Canada started contributing material in 1977.

In an effort to promote safe climbing and practices we compiled six reports from the 2018 ANAC, featuring accidents that have occurred in Canada across three main themes.

To read the full analysis and report for each story, click on the titles - let’s stay safe out there!

1. Pay attention to overhead hazards

Rockfall – Poor Position

  • Takakkaw Falls, BC

“My girlfriend and I were climbing the standard Takakkaw Falls route (12 pitches, 5.6) on Labor Day weekend. When we arrived, two parties were already on the route: a guide and a young woman, and a less experienced party that had been knocking off loose rocks. I was in the middle of the ninth pitch, 15 meters below the top, when the inexperienced party started rappelling from above. Upon pulling their rope, they dislodged a toaster-size rock that fell about 40 meters before striking my thumb and inner thigh. The thumb was partially amputated and the distal phalange was shattered. My thigh had a large hematoma. We were able to rappel and then drive to Golden for medical aid.”

Rockfall Incidents – Off-Route, Crowds

  • Mt Temple (East Ridge), AB

“Two rockfall incidents on the popular east rige of Temple resulted in injuries and evacuations. On July 30, a party of three high on the route had just made the long traverse left across loose ledges to gain gullies through the Black Towers. Route-finding can be difficult in this area, and this party began ascending the wrong gully. After one pitch, the leader realized he was off route and started to rappel back down. He dislodged a large rock that struck the head of one of the other climbers, cracking the helmet and causing a concussion. The team was able to retreat back across the ledge to a high point on the ridge, from which they were evacuated.

On August 9 there were multiple parties lined up on the east ridge. In the middle of the route is the Big Step, a steep, three-pitch section of 5.7 climbing. A climber in a lower group was struck by rock dislodged by a climber above, sustaining a shoulder injury. The climber was lowered to a large ledge below the Big Step with the assistance of the upper party and evacuated from this ledge.”

2. Tie a stopper

Lowering Error – No Stopper Knot

  • Shannon Falls, BC

"On June 27 my climbing partner and I witnessed an accident on Cardhu Crack (one pitch, 5.8) in the Shannon Falls area. After successfully completing the climb, the leader was being lowered. When she was about four meters above the ground, the belayer’s end of the rope went through her device and the leader fell to the ground. The belayer tried to catch the leader and was badly scraped and bruised in the process. Miraculously, everyone was able to walk away from the incident without any broken limbs. Both persons were wearing their helmets, and judging by a dent in the climber’s helmet, it probably saved her from a much more severe injury.”

Lowering Error – Rope Too Short, Inattention

  • Lake Louise (Back of the Lake), AB

“June 18 was a busy day at the Back of the Lake. We were a group of seven; everyone knew each other, but not everyone had climbed together. Everyone was a physically strong climber, which may have led to a sense of complacency.

Several of the climbers decided to link Public Enemy into Bloodsport (5.11-) after seeing another party do the same. The other party said the combined pitches totaled 43 meters, but their 80-meter rope “did the trick” for lowering, with stretch. Person 1, one of our group members, said his rope was 80 meters. Person 1 linked the two pitches and attempted to lower to the ground. Person 2, lowering Person 1 with his Grigri, was looking up at Person 1 when the rope pulled through the belay device. There was no knot, and the rope was not 80 meters. It was 70 meters.

Person 1 fell about five meters to a ledge, bounced off his butt with his back to the cliff, and then ricocheted between a tree trunk and the cliff. When he hit the ground he had fallen 12 meters. Person 1 was evacuated with the help of many climbers and Banff Visitor Safety. He had a concussion and minor scrapes to his head where he had collided with the tree. He had not been wearing a helmet.”

3. Be prepared and do your research

Stranded – Off-Route

  • Chancellor Peak, BC

"Two climbers were attempting the west ridge of Chancellor Peak (3,266 meters) on July 24. They were expecting low fifth-class climbing and instead encountered what felt like 5.8 or 5.9, with little protection, on poor rock. The two simul-climbed an estimated 10 to 12 pitches along the ridge until they got to a steep section they could not safely climb. Their route description told them to look for a rightward traverse, but they could not find it. While looking for the correct path, they triggered a large rockfall, which unsettled them and made them feel they could not safely ascend or descend the route. They called Banff dispatch on their cell phone and requested a rescue. Both climbers were uninjured.

After some discussion with the Parks Canada rescue leader, it was determined the climbers could not be coached down safely. A helicopter and team were prepared for a technical sling rescue. The team had radio communication with the stranded party, and they were told to pack up all ropes, to minimize entanglement hazard. Two rescuers were flown in and picked off both climbers.”

Four Stranded Parties – Underestimated Difficulties

  • Mt Rundle (Traverse), AB

“There were four separate rescues of uninjured but stranded groups of climbers on the Rundle Traverse in the summer of 2017. This 18-kilometer (11-mile) traverse follows a ridge across the many summits of Mt. Rundle. The terrain is mostly scrambling, which increases in difficulty from east to west in both route-finding and technical climbing (low fifth class). It is usually done in one very long day.

All of the rescues were in the more technical sections of the ridge, which can require some roped climbing as well as rappels, depending on experience and comfort level. Some of the parties had lengths of rope and a small rack, and some did not. All of the parties called for help by cell phone later in the day and were evacuated via helicopter long line, either that evening or at dawn the next day.”

Submit A Report

ANAC welcomes first-person reports about technical climbing accidents, as well as reports and analysis from rescuers, rangers, and other individuals familiar with the incidents. The person(s) involved may choose to remain anonymous.

  1. The American Alpine Journal's online Submission Form collects all the necessary information.

  2. Email the editors to ask questions about your report or to submit photos or diagrams.

Submit your ANAC submissions.

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