An ice climber spent almost eight hours dangling from a rope on Weeping Wall Sunday night (March 27) after he and his partner were stranded while descending the 300-metre cliff face.
There was no hope of a helicopter rescue because daylight had faded, so the Parks Canada rescue team mounted what became a technical rescue on the famous ice climb along the Icefields Parkway.
Brian Webster, visitor safety specialist for Banff National Park, said there was no imminent danger, but the man and his climbing partner, who was at the rappel station above, were both stranded.
“He was hanging off a rope in a vertical environment for a very long time. He was probably there for seven or eight hours, from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.,” said Webster.
“They were lucky that no one was hurt and it was a warm night, but they couldn’t have got themselves out of the jam on their own. They were both stranded.”
The drama began to unfold at about 6 p.m. Sunday at Weeping Wall –considered one of the most famous ice climbs in Canada — located about 30 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing.
The two men, believed to be in their late 20s, had completed a climb and were on their way down when they ran into trouble. They finished the first rappel, but their ropes became stuck in the second section.
Webster said they managed to pull some of the rope down, but ended up cutting the rope to retrieve it. They tied the remaining rope together and proceeded with the second rappel.
But, he said, a knot tying the ropes together prevented the first climber from continuing the rappel, and he didn’t have the depth of knowledge of rope systems to deal with the unexpected situation.
“Unfortunately, he was on the steepest part of the rappel and it was completely vertical and he couldn’t continue down because of the knot and he couldn’t climb back to the ledge,” said Webster.
“He was stuck on the vertical face on a rope, not able to go down or up, and his partner was above him at the rappel station and he had no ability to do anything as well. They were both stranded.”
A climbing party below tried to help out, but had no luck. They ended up driving to the Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel south of Jasper to raise the alarm.
Parks Canada’s rescue team got the call about 8 p.m., but with daylight fading, it was far too late to mount a helicopter rescue, forcing the rescue team to drive to the Weeping Wall.
By the time they geared up and drove the two hours from the Banff warden office, they couldn’t start the rescue until about 11 p.m.
“Ultimately, we ended up climbing to the top of the waterfall using head lamps. We walked to the top of the descent route and then rappelled down and helped them out,” said Webster.