Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Frank W. Baumann
Place: Cascade Waterall in Banff
Summary: 5 climbers caught, 4 injured, 1 killed
TWO KILLED ON CASCADE
By DAVID MERCER
and MIKE D'AMOUR
-- Sun Media
BANFF -- A steep fall
and car-sized chunks of
ice caused the deaths of
two mountain climbers
attempting to climb
Cascade Waterall in
"It was horrific,"
climber James McVicar
told The Sun less than
two hours after
surviving the ordeal.
RCMP said three parties of two climbers and
a fourth party of three were all at different
levels of the popular 100 m frozen waterfall
about 1:15 p.m yesterday.
"Myself and my wife had finished the last
pitch of the main face and we were rappelling
down," McVicar said.
"One of the teams of two was up in the upper
bowl and there was a team of three that were
starting to come down as well, and two guys
were coming up from below."
That's when a man in the party of three
inexplicably unhooked from the rope - which
connected him to his two pals - and slipped.
"He fell all the way down, almost to the
bottom of the climb, McVicar said.
Banff RCMP and EMS who attended the
scene estimated the man dropped as far as 20
metres before slamming to the hard, icy
After recovering from the shock of seeing the
man - who was later pronounced dead at the
scene - plummet to the ground, the other
climbers leapt into action.
"We all started to rappel and make our way
down the climb to help," McVicar said.
It was at that moment the unthinkable
occurred, he said.
"At about that time a huge avalanche hit."
Cops say tons of rocks and snow shot down
the mountain, hitting a second climber about 15
minutes after the man fell.
"There were Volkswagen and bus-sized
chunks of ice falling," said an emergency
response worker, who asked not to be
identified. "One of those chunks hit (the second
man) in the head - he had no chance.
"He was wearing a helmet, but it really didn't
make any difference at all - he died from
devastating head injuries."
McVicar said others
were also struck by
falling debris, but not
Four people were
treated for minor
injuries and released
from hospital in Banff,
120 km west of Calgary.
RCMP have not released the names of the two
dead men, pending notification of next-of-kin.
While McVicar said he knew an avalanche on
an ice climb is always a possibility, he
weighed the risks and decided to go for it.
"It wasn't really warm out and the sun wasn't
out, so we made the assessment that the
avalanche danger wasn't high."
But yesterday's tragedy is the result of an
always-present danger, said a Banff park
"It was just a naturally-occurring avalanche
and they do happen," said Marc Ledwidge.
"One of the big risks with waterfall ice
climbing is dealing with the avalanche hazard
There are four key points with regard to this accident that need
1. waterfall climbers are in one of the worst possible terrain traps
when it comes to avalanches.
2. climbing solo unroped means you can get bounced off by even the
3. it seems that at least 3 of the 4 avalanche victims (so far) this season died
primarily due to trauma and not suffocation.
4. people must be encouraged to read the avalanche forecasts. The one
for Banff yesterday (Dec 17th) fully predicted that avalanche danger was High (see the Banff National Park at www.discoveralberta.com ).