Accidents

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This page contains a collection of reports on accidents that have happened on VOC trips or to VOC members. It is intended to serve as an educational resource to help VOCers to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Accidents are currently organized in four categories: Climbing, Mountaineering, Skiing and Other. Within the categories reports are listed chronologically.

Please keep reports succinct and impersonal (you can use participant initials). Include the trip objective, date, location and a link to any discussion thread on the message board. Please try to only post accidents that are important enough to have educational value.

All accident reports on this page are written by individuals, and the VOC accepts no responsibility for their accuracy or for any conclusions made by the authors. This page is intended for educational purposes only.

Example

Here is an example report:

Aug. 26, 2007 Ground fall at Sugarloaf Murrin Park 1 injured

Four VOCers were climbing at Sugarloaf in Murrin Park (Squamish, BC). JM started up a climb (Hot Wire) and placed a single cam. He then continued up to the crux. After some difficulties JM fell and the cam pulled. Since that was the only piece of protection, he landed on the ground, injuring his ankle after falling about 7 metres. Subsequent analysis resulted in the conclusion that another piece could have been placed below the crux and that dirt in the cam prevented proper operation and contributed to it pulling out. Message board link

Accident Reports

Hiking/Scrambling

Jul 13, 2013 Ground fall on Guard Mountain Garibaldi Provincial Park, Guard Mountain 1 injured

5 VOCers climbed Guard Mountain, close to Sphinx Bay at Garibaldi Lake. On the 4-th class descent from the true summit, SD pulled out a loose rock and fell with it for approx. 8-10 meters. He hit two ledges during the fall and was hit by the rock he pulled during the fall. He remained conscious and did not suffer injuries to head or spine, but broke his pelvis, one of his elbows, as well as some bones in both his hands. He was evacuated via helicopter, and the remaining 4 VOCers hiked out without further incident. Always be suspicious of rocks in the alpine. Message board link

Climbing

Aug. , 2012 Close call-Lead Fall Shawangunks, NY. None injured, broken helmet

CJ decided to lead a route she had top-roped previously without difficulty. She had just started leading equivalent grades in the area with no bad experiences from doing so. Once on the route, CJ began finding the route harder than memory, probably due to the weight of the rack and the run out at the bottom. She continued past the bottom crux to a sustained upper section. Before starting the pumpy section, she placed a nut. She then had issues committing to moves as she got higher, and got increasingly pumped and scared. She placed two more pieces as she got higher, then asked the belayer to take in the rope, after positioning herself with the waist at the last piece.

That piece promptly popped out with tension, and another followed. As the second piece failed, the rope became wrapped around one of CJ's legs, and she fell upside down, weighing the nut and hitting the entire back of her body on the rock. She was wearing a thick foam helmet, and the back of it was completely cracked and destroyed. She was not hurt, but could have sustained severe brain injuries had she not been wearing a helmet.


Apoplexyfall.jpg

Above: Quick diagram of fall/how the rope probably caught a leg

Analysis: In hindsight, there was a lot that CJ did not realize at the time-she had started leading with traditional protection that season, with not much climbing experience beforehand. She was just starting to push the physical limit on lead.

Before the climb, she made the following mistakes: 1) She put too much emphasis on the grade, and did not know that a route can differ greatly in difficulty compared to other routes of the same grade 2) She did not heed subtle ques from strangers about the heady-ness of the route (for the grade), brushing it off as unfounded skepticism (though it could have been) 3) She did not realize that leading a traditional climb, especially with tricky gear placements and run outs, can make the route completely different from when she top-roped it

During the climb, she made the following mistakes: 1) She placed gear in strenuous positions, in the middle of the sustained section. This pumped her out faster, and made her scared. 2) She placed less than perfect protection-instead, she chose to climb past them in an effort to get through the section. 3) She had issues committing to overhanging moves, waiting too long, down climbing, etc. and again wasted energy and got overly pumped.

In quick summary, CJ should have done more research when leading climbs at her limit, and perhaps avoided scarier leads at the grade. At least, she should have had more experience with placing good protection. Good thing was that she was wearing a helmet.


Aug. 26, 2007 Ground fall at Sugarloaf Murrin Park 1 injured

Four VOCers were climbing at Sugarloaf in Murrin Park (Squamish, BC). JM started up a climb (Hot Wire) and placed a single cam. He then continued up to the crux. After some difficulties JM fell and the cam pulled. Since that was the only piece of protection, he landed on the ground, injuring his ankle after falling about 7 metres. Subsequent analysis resulted in the conclusion that another piece could have been placed below the crux and that dirt in the cam prevented proper operation and contributed to it pulling out. Message board link


Mountaineering

Sept. 2, 2007 Fall in snow covered crevasse (unroped) Wedge Mt. 0 injured

During the annual Mountaineering camp, three VOCers were descending the snow covered Wedgemount Glacier after climbing Wedge Mt. The party didn't rope up because they were of the opinion they could recognize and avoid most crevasses (the heavily crevassed areas were bare). The party was descending during the afternoon, and the snow was getting soft due to warm and sunny weather. LT did not follow the tracks set by other people, and from the transition from snow covered to bare glacier, party fell into a snow-covered crevasse. Luckily LT could easily climb out the crevasse with an ice axe (without help of the other party members). In hindsight, the crevasse was easy to identify (linear snow feature in between bare ice). Analysis: this incident could have been avoided by always roping up on snow-covered glacier, and/or potentially also by a more carefull route choice. Message board link

Skiing

March 04, 2012 Skiing resulting in knee injury Snow Zone, Duffy 1 injured

Mid sized VOC party (dozen or so, 3 car loads) was skiing in the Duffy's Snow Zone area. AM torn the ACL during a fast ski turn in deep powder. Non-emergency help button was activated on SPOT and advance party (1 car load) headed out to cars to coordinate with SAR while the rest of the group attempted to self rescue. Near midnight, facing an unplanned bivy, half the remaining group (1 car load) headed out to update SAR. Three remaining party members MM, PT and CK, along with AM, pitched tents and spent the night. In the morning PT and CK attempted to find a manageable route out while MM prepared warm drinks and made AM comfortable. Upon hearing sleds CK and PT returned to camp where contact was eventually made with a SAR team from Pemberton who had been delayed all morning by avalanche conditions. Cloud cover prevented heli evac, therefore AM was hauled out by collapsible sled.

Party was equipped and prepared to handle the emergency and functioned well as a team. SAR team commended efforts and identified no shortcomings in the team's response or preparedness.

Message board link

Apr. 15, 2007 Vantage N. face avalanche Vantage Peak 0 injured

Four VOCers climbed Vantage Peak from a camp in Cerise Creek, Duffy Lake Road area. Skinned up to the base of the west ridge and hiked/scrambled to the summit. On descent, BS released a large slab avalanche on the steep, corniced North side of Vantage. BS triggered the slide by putting one step in the N. face from the ridge (on boots). All the snow below BS's feet slid off. The slide stepped up (from ~30cm to ~20cm) after 50m and expanded to both the left and right and produced a ~280m long run out. The slope was about 40° steep, variable from 35-45° in upper part. Elevation: ~ 2225m. The sliding snow involved new snow from the previous days, the sliding layer was a solid 3cm thick melt-freeze crust (likely a result from hot temperatures during previous weekend). Avalanche danger rating was moderate in the alpine. Message board link

Apr. 20, 2006 Edmonds Glacier Avalanche Tchaikazan Valley 0 injured

Four VOC members were doing a ski traverse that went through the upper tchaikazan valley. An avalanche was triggered descending from the Chapman Glacier to the Edmonds Glacier. It was snowing at the time, and there was 30-40cm of new storm snow and the slope was cross loaded. The avalanche was size 2, about 200m wide and 200m long. The debris was up to 1m deep. SN descended the slope first and and traversed out to skier's left. SC started to descend before SN was completely safe. SC triggered a small sluff, which ran downhill and started a dry slab avalanche 5m below. The crown propagated 50m right and 150m left, releasing snow above SN. SN was able to ski off to the side without being caught in the debris. In this case, the party was caught off guard descending a south facing slope. Earlier in the day, the party had similarly steep north facing slopes with more snow loading without incident, and believed this south facing slope should be safer that what they had already passed. However, the south facing slope had a strong sun crust underneath the storm snow which acted as a sliding layer.

Other

Fatalities

We should probably try and reconstruct some historical data about people who have died during VOC-related activities. VOC-related, because just two people have died on official, organized VOC trips. If the victim had been a VOC Member and subsequently died on some sort of outdoors adventure, then their experience would be included here, but we don't want to include the whole North American Mountaineering Community.

Frank Koch died on the first ascent of Mt. Blaine in the Rockies in 1955 on a trip that also included Pat Duffy (VOC), Dave Kennedy (VOC) and Gerry Johnson (from Sunshine ski school). Pat wrote an article in CAJ1956 on this event.

Jean Sharpe on a VOC trip in 1962, to Yoho Park. While skiing on Whaleback Mountain, a slide came down and Jean was killed. There is a memorial plaque near where she died.

Eryl Pardoe In 1970, on a VOC trip, slipped while descending a steep snow slope on American Border Peak, ice axe arrest was unsuccessful, fell into a moat and died.

Julian Harrison VOC President 1973-74, and husband of Mary Bussel, another active member of the Varsity Outdoor Club. He died in an avalanche on Mt. Shasta, in March of 1983. The Harrison Hut is his memorial. http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13198402400/Avalanche-California-Mount-Shasta

Brian Waddington died in an avalanche with two others on Mt Cerberus, May 17, 1996. http://www.avalanche-center.org/Incidents/1995-96/19960517-Canada.txt The Brian Waddington (Phelix) Hut is his memorial.

Dr Robert M Driscoll VOC President 1985-86, died in an avalanche along with five others, in Kokanee Park, January 2, 1998. http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=1246

David Persson May 24, 1999 Skiing (Mt Rainier, Summit Climb) fell over edge while skiing down Liberty Ridge near the top of the Black Pyramid. http://www.mountrainierclimbing.us/sar/fatalities.php

John Kim Millar and Guy Edwards In 2003, disappeared while attempting the NW face of the Devil's Thumb in Alaska; probably swept away by an avalanche. http://www.seanisaac.com/expeditions%20folder/guy%20edwards.htm

Rachael Bagnall (along with non-VOCer Jonathan Jette) went missing during a multi-day hike in the area of Valentine Lake around Cassiope and Saxifrage peaks. She is still reported as 'missing' as nothing was found besides their car parked on the logging road. http://www.whistlerquestion.com/news/pemberton/family-resumes-search-for-missing-hikers-1.961787

Tyler Lewis an experienced backcountry skier, fell on the back side of Hollyburn, between Hollyburn and Strachan, December 9, 2012. He was up there with a friend, not on a Club event. Official cause of death, anoxic brain injury, drowning, from falling into a tree well. http://blogs.apsc.ubc.ca/chbenews/2013/01/02/tyler-graham-prindle-lewis-1986-2012/

Stephanie Grothe VOC President 2013-14, Neil Mackenzie, and non-VOCer Elena Cernicka, perished on an ascent of Joffre’s Central Couloir in a slip-and-fall accident on January 11, 2015. Their trip was privately organized among the three and two other friends, and not an official VOC trip. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/stephanie-grothe-elena-cernicka-neil-mackenzie-identified-as-joffre-peak-climbing-victims-1.2899722
Forum thread: Stephanie
Forum thread: Neil

Non-fatal but still educational

If the accident is serious enough to require rescue by others, then it's serious enough to mention here.

Nigel Eggars impaled himself with his ice axe while practising near Lake Lovelywater. Helicopter evac, removal of spleen.

Roland Burton twisted ankle while trying to cross Barr Cr beside the Harrison Hut, and required helicopter evac. 2002 Oct 20

Piotr Forysinski, shattered kneecap after slipping on icy snow-slope without an ice axe by Motel 66, near Anniversary Glacier. Helicopter evac. September 2010.

Nick Chng Anterior shoulder dislocation due to pole catching in snow during high-speed fall. Wrists were through pole straps. Phelix. Helicopter evac. January 2010.

Neil Mackenzie was on a split board on Mt Currie when he slipped backwards and fell, eventually stopping with a broken shoulder blade. After some 911 communication difficulties, Pemberton SAR was contacted and Neil was helicoptered out the next day. Further details at https://teambadidea.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/team-bad-idea-pencil-in-currie/ April 2014 .

External Links

Alpine Club of Canada - Alpine accidents database
Canadian Avalanche Centre - Avalanche accidents information