American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Avalanche, British Columbia, Purcell Mountains

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

AVALANCHE

British Columbia, Purcell Mountains

A group of ten skiers led by Rudi Gertsch had been taken by helicopter to an unnamed 9,000-foot peak near the junction of McMurdo Creek and the Spillimacheen River in the Purcell Mountains on 14 February 1979. They were skiing down a bowl. About 0.4 meters of snow had fallen four days earlier and there had been high winds. The skiers were overwhelmed by a hugh slab avalanche, almost a kilometer wide, that started about 2,700 meters and buried them near 1,600 meters. The avalanche accumulated to a depth of up to 30 meters and buried seven of the skiers to depths of 1.5-6 meters and killed them. (Source: Toronto Globe and Mail, 16 February 1979)

Analysis

As we have no further information about this tragic accident, we can only comment that even professional guides, who are continuously in the mountains where avalanches are common, cannot always judge the state of the snow. Most amateurs have less knowledge and judgment. (Source: E. Whalley)

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