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Rock and Snow Avalanche, Climbing Alone — British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Crescent Glacier


British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Crescent Glacier

At about 5 p.m., on August 19, 1982, a large rockfall from the summit area of Bugaboo Spire came down the east face and caused a snow avalanche on Crescent Glacier. The debris covered an area about 150 meters long and 200 meters wide at an elevation of 2600 meters.

A single person had been seen on the glacier ten minutes before the avalanche. After the slide, three people examined the debris area but found nothing. It was not known whether the person who had been seen moved clear of the line of fall before the slide occurred.

Inquiries ascertained that John Rutt (23), who was camping alone, had been looking for a climbing partner. His tent was checked at 10 p.m.; there was no sleeping bad which indicated that he might be bivouacking. On August 20, at 5:30 a.m., a further check of his tent was made. At 8 a.m., Parks Headquarters at Wasa was contacted by radio and the RCMP and Search and Rescue were alerted. At 10:35 a.m., after a check with other climbers in the area still had turned up no trace of Rutt, Parks Headquarters was again contacted and the search operation was activated.

The search team, including a dog and handler, reached the slide area by helicopter at 12:10 p.m.; later, a second dog and handler were brought in. Rutt’s body was located by one of the dogs at about 2 p.m. (Source: S. Shaw and A. Larson)