Safety Stories: Struck by “Dinner Plate” While Ice Climbing in Canmore

When he swung into the ice, a "dinner plate" became dislodged. He was able to mostly duck his head and get out of the way.
David Shema David Shema
Safety Committee Member
February 15, 2021

As Mountaineers, we are committed to learning from our experiences. We examine every incident that happens on a Mountaineers trip for opportunities to improve the ways we explore and teach. Our volunteer safety committee reviews every incident report and picks a few each month to share as examples of ‘Lessons Learned’. The trip report below describes what happened on this trip, in the leader’s own words, and outlines the lessons the leader has identified. In some cases, we offer additional key learnings from the incident.

Sharing incidents creates an opportunity to analyze specific incidents and also identify larger incident trends. We appreciate every volunteer trip leader who takes the time to share their incidents and near-misses so that others can benefit. We ask that readers engage critically and respectfully in the spirit of sharing and learning.

 

Canmore, Alberta – 7 February

FROM THE INCIDENT DATABASE: LEADER INCIDENT REPORT

LEADER

Morning of Feb 7. A group of Mountaineers Alpine Ambassadors were top roping at Haffner Creek (British Columbia) highway 93S. They were all warming up and on their first few laps of the day. The ice was a touch brittle from cool temps overnight. The lead climber was halfway or so up the ice route. When he swung into the ice, a "dinner plate" became dislodged. He was able to mostly duck his head and get out of the way, but a small chunk hit his lip, resulting in a couple stitches. We did a field cleaning, bandaging, and sent him to the hospital. 

PARTICIPANT

On my second lap of an ice pitch at Haffner Creek on top rope, I dislodged a football-sized hunk of ice while swinging my tool. The hunk of ice struck me in the face, slightly left of center between my chin and lip. The impact caused a 1 cm cut that bled profusely and also caused me to bite the inside of my mouth. This was around 11sm.

I asked my belayer to lower me, and once off belay, he provided some immediate first aid in the form of wound cleaning and a gauze pad to apply pressure. Other party members looked at the wound and concluded that it might require stitches. We discussed a plan and determined that another participant would drive me back to Canmore and that I would then drive myself to the hospital.

We hiked out quickly, and after about a 45-minute drive, I was dropped me off as planned. I drove myself to the emergency room at Canmore General Hospital. I was seen quickly, and the doctor determined that the face wound and mouth wound were not connected and that only the facial wound required stitches. He administered a local anesthetic and applied two sutures.  The doctor determined that there was no brain or other head trauma but gave me a sheet on warning signs to take away. I left the hospital by 2pm.

Lessons Learned

LEADER

Falling ice, both natural and human, produced is a normal hazard mitigated from tucking head down, wearing a helmet, swinging into concave features, and not staring directly at the ice when you swing. However, ice still can fly and produces a hazard.

Not much could have been differently other than tucking his head faster and perhaps not swinging at convex ice feature.


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