Victims of climbing accident identified
The two victims of last Sunday’s (July 29) tragic climbing accident in the Heart Creek area have been identified, but police and Alberta Parks are still unsure about what caused the pair to fall almost 100 metres to their deaths.
Calgarians Ranjit Sidhu, 31, and Jane Vuong, 25, were rappelling down the sport climbing route called Sciatica, which is a 5.10d six-pitch route in the Heart Creek area about 15 kilometers east of Canmore.
According to emergency crews and public safety, the climbers were using a simultaneous rappelling, or “simul-rappelling,” technique when something went wrong, resulting in both of them falling.
Kananaskis Country Public Safety Specialist Mike Koppang said they received a call around 1 p.m. after hikers in the area witnessed the fall and immediately dialed 911. Both climbers were deceased by the time emergency crews arrived on scene.
“They were both rappelling at the same time doing what we suspect to be simul-rappelling,” Koppang said. “While rappelling there was an accident and they had a close to 100-meter fall. We’re still trying to figure out the exact cause of that.”
Canmore RCMP Staff Sgt. Brad Freer indicated both climbers, who worked together at Manulife Insurance, had the proper equipment and, from speaking with their families, learned they were active climbers.
“There was some human error involved,” Freer said. “From the way that the rope was there and the gear that they were wearing, they had the proper equipment. How they used it we can’t tell.”
The staff sergeant also pointed out that there was a fixed anchor and police are calling the incident a rappelling accident.
Simultaneous rappelling is a means of descending a mountain that’s typically a lot quicker than other techniques, said Lawrence White, executive director for the Alpine Club of Canada. However, there are some safety measures climbers need to always be aware of.
“When you’re rappelling, there’s two things that should happen that are often overlooked,” White explained. “The first is to tie knots at the end of your rope. The second thing, which doesn’t apply so much to simul-rappelling, but is still highly useful, is putting a prusik (friction hitch) on your rope as well.
“It’s a little bit different in this case because chances are one of the two un-weighted the rope in which case the other person would have fallen right through,” he added.
Another safety measure while rappelling is climbers go down together in an even, measured manner to apply equal force to both sides of the rope, the executive director said.
White also said that regarding sport climbing with fixed protection, people generally rappel one at a time. The route both climbers were on, which is based on the Yosemite Decimal System, is one of the higher grades for recreational climbers.
“A 5.10 is what most recreational climbers aspire to,” he said. “It’s not a particularly difficult grade, but it’s definitely not a walk in the park. It sounds like these two were proficient in what they were doing and it was just a really unfortunate accident.”
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.