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Recent Alpine Accidents Reminders to Climb Safe

Stay roped up, stay safe

There have been a number of climbing accidents in Western Canada’s mountains over the past few weeks, so be sure to go over your systems and have proper knowledge of terrain before heading out.

In the Rockies, a climber recently slung a horn while descending the Grassi Route on Little Sister near Canmore. The system failed and the climber fell and sustained injuries.

On Mount Sir Donald in Rogers Pass, a climber slipped on snow after climbing the Northwest Ridge and descending the west face bypass. He was unroped and fell to his death.

Despite both of the above routes getting a low difficulty and commitment grade, they require extensive knowledge of simul-climbing, route finding, anchor building and alpine travel experience.

Do not be fooled by low grades, most alpine rock and mixed routes are more serious than multi-pitch rock climbs and crag routes. And a 5.7 in the alpine is many times more challenging than a 5.7 in a gym.

Keep your head up, climb with experienced climbers, know the route, bring proper layers, food and communication devices and be redundant about anchors, gear and stay roped up.

Mount Sir Donald

Climbing in Canada’s mountains is no joke and should be taken very seriously. Practice your systems, learn about short roping, learn about moving on loose rock, learn about protecting traverses, learn about moving on snow and ice and know that even some of the world’s best climbers have made mistakes here, sending them home on a stretcher.

Ask around about routes before heading out: How long is it? What’s the rock like? What’s the descent like? What gear do I need? Do I need a hammer for pitons? Can we pitch it out? Are there better routes to do first?

Loose rock (choss) on the Northeast Ridge of Mount Athabasca. Photo Tyler Davidson

Some of the most dangerous lines out there are the grade II 5.4 alpine routes because they are low angled, have hundreds of metres of loose rock and a lot more terrain to cover than you think.

The summer is only half over and confidence levels matched with complacency can lead to potentially dangerous situations.