Leader Fall, Dan’s Delight, Banff National Park, Aug 28, 2010
A party of two experienced climbers set out to climb Dan’s Delight on Bankhead Buttress on Cascade Mountain at a reasonably early hour. The route is rated 5.6 and was first climbed in 1971. They climbed up to the top of the third pitch without incident. As the leader was climbing the fourth pitch he was hit by a rock that knocked him off of his stance. A subsequent 20 metre fall ensued. One piece of protection pulled out which lengthened the distance of his fall. Fortunately he stopped parallel to the belay, which consisted of two good expansion bolts. His partner was able to lower him down and to the side where a sloping ledge could support the weight of his severely injured friend. He then tied him directly to the anchor and pulled the rope back down to the belay. After he was finished securing the situation he called Banff Park Emergency Dispatch.
Two Visitor Safety Specialists were dispatched immediately as a Park Warden drove out to scope the scene with binoculars. The Park Warden relayed back to the VSS team that he could see one climbing party moving well on a route called “Valley View”, as well as a team of two bunched together further to the right, which was “Dan’s Delight”. The VSS team members flew directly to the scene and located the climbing party with assistance from the Park Warden on the ground. The pilot did a power check and the crew flew down to a staging area at the Cascade Pit. One rescuer was inserted at the climbing party’s location and assessed the situation. The first rescuer called for a list of additional equipment needed to perform the task, and the second rescuer was inserted into the site with that equipment. Both rescuers worked hard to package the patient into a Bauman Bag (injured person carrying device) as the sloping ledge was very loose and narrow. After the patient was packaged the helicopter was called back in. One rescuer clipped the line accompanying the patient as the second rescuer released them from the anchor. The helicopter made a second trip to collect the un-injured member of the climbing party and the second rescuer. The patient was delivered to waiting Banff EMS at the staging area.
The upper circle indicates where the leader was when he fell. The lower circle indicates where he stopped. They can also be seen in the lower circle. The total distance of the fall was approximately 20 metres.
Given that the party was sufficiently experienced for the undertaking it can only be said that sometimes, “things happen”. Loose rock is a fact of life in the Mountain National Parks, and sometimes it can come loose and knock climbers off their stance. It is also important to note that this lead climber did a good job of placing adequate protection on his lead. The top piece happened to pull out, but once again these things can happen. Above all, the protection he placed did what it was supposed to do, and that was stopping his fall. The patient ended up suffering a broken ankle, broken ribs and resulting pneumothorax in the lung, dislocated shoulder, point tenderness in his back and spine, as well as a lacerated face. His helmet was cracked and wearing one likely saved his life.