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Rocky Mountains of Canada, Fatal Avalanche at Lake Louise

Fatal Avalanche at Lake Louise. On March 26th, 1945, about five o’clock in the afternoon, nine skiers from the East, including Hermann Gadner, formerly of Obergürgl, Austria, and more recently ski instructor at St. Jovite, Quebec, were skiing on the N.E. slope of the long S.E. ridge of Mt. Richardson near Lake Louise, when a large avalanche engulfed most of the party and completely buried two. One of these, Mrs. Newman, had fortunately held up a ski pole. A small segment of the pole’s basket visible above the snow was discovered in about ten minutes and shortly thereafter we succeeded in uncovering her head. She soon recovered consciousness and was removed from the snow unhurt.

An hour of systematic probing with the longest available poles failed to locate Gadner and it was only after reworking the most likely area with pole plus full arm length, a slow and difficult proceeding, that we finally found him in an almost upright position with head six feet below the surface.

Digging with skis and hands, his head was uncovered within about eighty minutes of burial. He had every appearance of being dead. For over an hour, Royal Little blew air into his lungs, while the rest of us tunneled to reach and release his feet from his skies, which were buried 12 ft. deep. Color was gradually returning, but he did not resume breathing.

Immediately after the accident, Mrs. Cabot skied to Mt. Temple Chalet for help. The first of the rescue party arrived about 7.45, just before Gadner was pulled from the snow. Toboggan and blankets came more than an hour later. In the meantime, Gadner, who was lightly clothed, was wrapped in available clothing and great effort was made to restore him to life; but it was all to no avail.

The slope on which the avalanche occurred was 25 to 30° and 400 to 500 ft. high. The snow on this N.E. exposure was settled powder over unconsolidated granular and averaged about three feet deep. Recognizing the hazard in the wide snow bowl flanking the ridge, the party was descending close to the rocky point at its eastern end and all were within a few yards of the edge of the avalanche, which slid simultaneously throughout a total with of more than half a mile.

Thomas D. Cabot