Climber sues guide following near-fatal accident

Is "on belay" and "climbing" a legal agreement?

According to a news release, a client on a guided mountaineering trip near Whistler, BC is suing the guide and a mountain guide association for negligence and breach of contract. 

The repercussions of the suit could reverberate throughout the mountain guiding industry across the country. 

The story is relayed in a release issued by MacKenzie Fujisawa LLP. On July 15 of this year, it is alleged that Ian Manson, 63, of Whistler BC  was being belayed up the face of Mount Rogers in Glacier National Park, B.C. when the guide tested the stability of a fridge-size rock causing the rock to move and then fall directly towards his client. Although Manson was able to avoid direct impact, the rock did graze him. When the guide let go of the rope, the client lost his balance and fell backward. As the client fell, the rope paid out to its full length and then went tight pulling the guide off his belay stance, catapulting him into the air and down the face of the mountain.

"The client was able to arrest his fall on a small ledge below," states the release. "As the guide flew overhead of the client, the client was able to grasp the slack rope dangling from the guide's belay loop. The client gripped the rope tightly to try change the arc of the guide's fall. The guide impacted the rock face within the length of the rope below the client so the client was not pulled off his ledge and the guide's fall was terminated."

None of the allegations have been proven in court and the defendants have not yet filed a response to civil claim in the action.

It is also unknown whether or not the client signed a waiver prior to the climb. 

Parks Canada rescued the climbers from the scene of the incident by long-line helicopter rescue and transported them by helicopter and air ambulance to hospitals in Kelowna, B.C. and Revelstoke, B.C.

A notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday stated that the client suffered injuries in the incident.

The client is seeking an unspecified amount in general damages, special damages and costs.

According to the release, the notice of civil claim alleges negligence by the guide and/or his company owing from a duty of care and breaches of contract.  

The suit alleges "When [the guide] called out "on-belay" and the plaintiff responded by calling back "climbing", there formed an ancillary agreement between [the guide] and the plaintiff whereby [the guide] became immediately responsible for securing the safety of the plaintiff while climbing up the particular pitch on belay. [The guide] broke this agreement when he let go of the rope, letting the plaintiff fall, wantonly and recklessly putting the plaintiff in mortal peril."

The notice of civil claim further alleges negligence by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides owing from a duty of care in relation to, amongst other things, the training of the guide.


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