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#19172 - 08/21/17 01:11 PM Mt Robson - rockfall incident and learnings
Anton Offline


Registered: 11/09/07
Posts: 313
Loc: Calgary
Jason Wilcox and I had more of an adventure on Mt Robson last week than we wanted/expected. In short, we chose an unsafe route given the warm conditions. I was hit in the arm by a rock (deep cut, bone chip/fracture) and we spent 18hrs of 'type 3 fun' on a couple small ledges before initiating a self-rescue.

Here are a few learnings to share that might help you avoid a similar situation, or worse.

1) Be prepared (i.e. skills) and carry the gear (e.g. 1st Aid, GPS device) for emergency situations so you can respond appropriately. Among other things... we used our 1st Aid, GPS device (Spot), and an emergency space blanket. Turns out my 1st Aid Kit was a few years old and the antiseptic wipes were dried out, so check your gear often and don't cheap-out on buying emergency equipment.

2) Buy a GPS rescue device that has ability for 2-way communications! Its priceless to be able to communicate with the SAR team and your loved ones during an emergency (plus, as a bonus you also can get weather updates/etc). The Parks guys I spoke to highly recommended the InReach device. Also, know your gear inside out, especially your rescue device. Our mistake was not knowing everything about the Spot device we were using. Did you know that you MUST leave your Spot on for at least 1 hour after sending an SOS? If you don't (e.g. to save battery power), the rescuers assume its a false alarm and cancel a rescue!! They get many legit false alarms so are cautious about initiating a costly rescue unless necessary... do your part of make it an easy decision for them to come help you.

3) Have a disciplined approach to managing risk. Assess and reassess conditions often (e.g. hourly) with your partner(s)! We are rigorous about risk mitigation, however we still got into a dangerous situation that might have been avoided by having even more conversations throughout the day about what we were seeing, what our 'gut' was telling us, and its potential implications.

4) DO NOT use the Patterson COULOIR (~900m, 50 degree ice/snow) to approach the Robson glacier/Dome from the south side of the mountain. The snow may appear clean lower down (~2200 to 2800m), however up higher (~3000m, out of sight) the couloir/glacier narrows and is dirty and prone to rockfall in warmer weather. If you choose to approach via the south side of the mountain, the Patterson Spur/Buttress is a safer option, although still has objective hazards and requires challenging scrambling with a heavy pack (plus requires an additional traverse of the R-R ridge to gain the glacier/Dome). Note that this Spur/Buttress could be dangerous on descent when you are tired, and/or with any rime/water/snow coverage. Don't under-estimate this part of the climb or descent!

5) Know your climbing partner(s) very well, especially for challenging climbing objectives. Do you trust them with your life (yes, seriously!)? There's only 2 people I know that I trust enough to be in that situation -- I'm damn happy I was with 1 of them!! (thanks again Jay!!!)

Photos and thread also here on Facebook.

#19177 - 08/26/17 11:27 AM Re: Mt Robson - rockfall incident and learnings [Re: Anton]
Ted Raven Offline

Registered: 03/07/16
Posts: 24
Loc: Jasper
Thanks for posting this. Always important to learn from others. I don't own a SPOT, but I never would have thought about it had I borrowed one (like I have in the past).

Heal quick!!


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