• Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
  • Climber Breaks Ankle and Back After Fall in the Palisades, California
  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
  • Lightning Strikes Twice - Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima
  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • My Helmet Saved My Life - Short Story Series
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Earthquake, Avalanche, 21 Dead on Everest, Over 4,600 in Nepal
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Ice Climber Killed
  • Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger


    Late last year the climbing world was stunned when Harald Hari Berger, 34, died in an ice-climbing accident near Hintersee-Flachau, Austria. Berger, who began climbing in 1986, was an UIAGM mountain guide and professional climber, sponsored by top-shelf companies such as Petzl, The North Face and Lowa. He was a world-class ice, mixed and rock climber, with three overall Ice World Cup wins (2002, 2003 and 2006), 5.14 rock climbs and a repeat of the world's most difficult mixed route, The Game (M13) to his credit. Berger was well-known in the United States, where he entertained crowds with slideshows and jaw-dropping performances at the Ouray Ice Competition, where he placed second in 2005. That such an accomplished and well-known figure could die while warming up in a bouldering ice cave seemed unbelievable. Also unbelievable was the birth of his daughter, Zoe, on the very day of his accident.

    On December 20, Berger and three friends went to a local ice cave for some afternoon exercise. Ice caves, while atypical in the United States, are more common in the Alps, where they form at the base of avalanche slopes. There, the dense snow, warmed by the summer sun, turns into plastic blue ice similar to that of a glacier. When streams formed by meltwater percolate through the ice, fantastic caves and tunnels can form. Climbing inside one of these caves is much like climbing inside a giant pipe, with steeply overhanging walls and a ceiling, an ideal setting for ice bouldering. In the more popular caves, climbers sometimes use a cordless drill to pre-drill pick placements, sparing the walls from the ravages of tools, making the climbing a physical peg-ladder type affair. Whether the particular cave Berger was bouldering in had such drilled holes is unknown. Generally, such caves are considered stable, although several years ago a climber was trapped in a collapsed cave and was lucky to escape. The Icecapelle cave Berger was in was popular.

    This day, Berger booted up while his companions wandered off to a far end of the cave, a move that would soon save them. Berger was alone and about 10 feet up a wall when a portion estimated to weigh 150 tons collapsed on him. His friends, unharmed, rushed to his aid, but heavy equipment was required to extract him from beneath the massive debris pile.



    Hari Berger was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were no indications that the cave was unstable, and no amount of experience or inexperience, or precautions short of not climbing at all, would have prevented the accident.

    Berger's death is a stark reminder of the objective hazards of ice climbing, a discipline that, due to the nature of the medium, is more dangerous than rock climbing. As the popularity of ice climbing increases, the number of injuries and fatalities will also increase. In the United States, an accident of Berger's type is unlikely simply because we don't have similar ice caves, but the danger of collapsing pillars and falling ice is real. In the mid 1990s, a climber died on Glenwood Falls near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, when that south-facing formation, warmed by the sun, fell apart. Near there, at Vail's Fang amphitheater, in 1998, Sue Nott was seriously injured when a large piece of the pillar she was on broke off and speared her. In 2002, in the same area, the paramedic and writer Rod Willard was struck in the head and killed by  a 40-pound chunk of falling ice.


    The list of ice-climbing accidents is lengthy, and often tragic. When climbs collapse it is usually impossible to escape the tons of on-rushing ice.

    All ice climbs, pillars, flows, glacial walls and caves, do eventually fall down, yet it is difficult to know when. We do know that free-hanging pillars are more likely to break off than ones that connect to the rock at the top and bottom. Free-hanging pillars are also most likely to break off at the lip of the rock. Assessing the danger is up to you every time you swing a tool. Consider the current temperature, and the temperature of the past few days. Did a warm spell weaken the ice-to-rock bond? If so, go grab coffee and a book. Another warning sign is horizontal fractures. On free-hanging pillars, place protection in the rock before you get onto the ice. Once on the ice, climb as high as you can before setting a screw. Ideally, your first screw will be at a point above where the ice connects to the rock. Now, if the dangling portion of the pillar breaks off, you won't be connected to the plunging block.

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