This is a series of articles which originally appeared in the monthly Island Bushwhacker Newsletter from March 2012 to October 2013. It was inspired by the annual AAC publication “Accidents in North American Mountaineering.” The contributors hoped that, by telling these stories, other alpinists would learn useful lessons and avoid similar “close calls” during their mountain adventures.

This collection is now accepting new articles. If you have a story that you’d like to tell, please contact geoff.bennett@shaw.ca.

Foreword

Janelle Curtis

Janelle suffered a harrowing accident on July 2nd, 2016 while traversing the ridge between Augerpoint and Mitchell in Strathcona Park. The story of her ordeal and her amazing recovery are described in the 2016 issue of the Island Bushwhacker and the Spring 2019 Newsletter.

There is much to learn from fellow climbers and mountaineers who share their experience and knowledge. Arno Ilgner offers much wisdom to climbers in his book Espresso Lessons. There he wrote: “Learning is the means that allows you to reach your full potential.” He also wrote that “To learn and improve, however, you must intentionally push beyond what your mind thinks you can do.” As climbers and mountaineers, we often push beyond our perceived limits and learn through direct experience. We also improve from the many lessons that others share with us.

Such lessons include becoming comfortable carrying and using a map and compass, knowing first aid, using protective gear, communicating with your partners as needed about matters related to safety, having the equipment to request help during emergencies, carrying everything you need to survive one or more nights in the backcountry on your own, recognizing when it’s time to turn back (and doing so) and being prepared to cope with unanticipated adverse conditions. Lou Whittaker captured the importance of expecting the unexpected in his writing: “It doesn’t matter how good you are – in the mountains, just when you think you’re in control, you aren’t.

In this insightful collection of articles about close calls, fellow ACCVI members shared some of their many lessons learned while climbing and mountaineering over the years. Apart from reading those articles and other related material, it’s also worth spending time with fellow climbers and mountaineers to learn about packing, navigating, traversing glaciers, managing ropes, building emergency shelters, assessing avalanche hazards, and so much more. I am immensely grateful to everyone in ACCVI, including these authors, who shared their lessons and mentored me in the art of climbing and mountaineering over the years.

Index of Articles

“The Blue River Blues” by Geoff Bennett (March 2012)
• There is no safety in numbers
“Do the Math” by Geoff Bennett (April 2012)
• Navigating by compass
“Carrot Creek” by Geoff Bennett (May 2012)
• Survival
“Bum Raps” by Geoff Bennett (June 2012)
• Rappelling
“Odaray Glacier” by Geoff Bennett (September 2012)
• For want of an ice screw
“First Climbs in the Alps” by Albert Hestler (October 2012)
• You had to be tough in the old days
“Triple Peak Rappel” by Chris Ruttan (November 2012)
• Rappelling
“The Climbing Coffles” by Sandy Briggs (December 2012)
• Musings on group size
“Protection” by Geoff Bennett (January 2013)
• Gear placement on rock
“SPOT to the Rescue” by David Campbell and John Young (February 2013)
• Rescue devices
“An Accident on the South Sister” by Rick Hudson (March 2013)
• Snow bollards
“The Hillman and the Philistine” by Lindsay Elms (April 2013)
• Borrowed gear and broken-down cars
“What if an elk falls through the roof?” by Geoff Bennett (May 2013)
• Snow caves
“Predators” by Geoff Bennett (June 2013)
• Bears and wolverines
“Near Death” by Gil Parker (October 2013)
• Surviving accidents