September 13, 2012
Woman stuck on mountainside for 6 hours
By MICHAEL WOOD, QMI Agency
CALGARY - With no ropes to secure her, a Calgary woman clung to her climbing axe lodged into icy Mount Victoria for six hours awaiting rescue after falling 50 metres.
Through creeping darkness and worsening weather, she held on for dear life with nothing but her crampons and axe until help finally arrived.
"She actually managed to slow her self down and not keep going," said Marc Ledwidge, a Parks Canada visitor safety manager and one of two rescuers who helped bring the woman to safety after her harrowing ordeal near Lake Louise, Alta., Sunday.
"Normally falling down a steep ice slope like that has pretty dire consequences."
The woman, who is in her 20s, was climbing with a partner when she fell off the 3,464-metre mountain around 3 p.m.
Incredibly, she managed the feat a second time when she attempted to crawl back up the cloud-enshrouded mountain.
Weather had taken a bad turn hours before.
"When she heard us flying around, she thought she might go back up the ridge to make herself more visible," Ledwidge said.
The unidentified woman fell again and saved herself a second time.
She had already been clinging there for an hour by the time rescuers were alerted to her precarious situation by her partner.
He trudged to Abbot Hut, an alpine shack on Abbot Pass used by climbers, where luck was a lady with a cellphone.
If it wasn't for her, the man would have had to walk for hours to Lake O'Hara to find the closest landline to call for help.
"If that would have happened, we likely would have been too late to get in there."
It still took the crew -- pilot Lance Cooper, Ledwidge and rescue specialist Aaron Beardmore -- several more hours before they could reach Abbot Pass due to the weather.
The mountain was encased in clouds, making it impossible for Ledwidge and his climbing partner to spot the woman.
Ledwidge and Beardmore struck out to find the woman, with whom they finally made voice contact in the black of night.
Beardmore clipped her in and he and Ledwidge guided her back to Abbot Hut, where everyone spent the night.
Ledwidge said the woman was glad to see them and she suffered only minor frostbite.
"She was a little cold, but for having waited there for six hours ... we expected her to be a lot colder," he said.
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