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Avalanche, Poor Position, Apparent Lack of Knowledge of Snowpack, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Snow Dome

AVALANCHE, POOR POSITION, APPARENT LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF SNOWPACK

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Snow Dome

On March 20, 1993, three experienced mountaineers set out from Highway 93 near the Columbia Icefield to climb “Slipstream,” a serious waterfall climb on the shoulder of Snow Dome. The sky was clear, but a storm system was expected to move through the area later in the day. Some time during the climb, an avalanche swept the entire climbing party off the route and into crevasses near its base. All three climbers perished.

Wardens in Jasper National Park were notified the following day that the climbers were overdue, but due to poor visibility and extreme avalanche hazard, rescuers were not able to determine the whereabouts and condition of the climbing party for three days. On March 24, articles of clothing and climbing equipment were found in avalanche debris below the route. Periodic searches of the area were conducted by the Warden Service over the next two months, and the remains of all three climbers were recovered.

Analysis

Throughout the winter of 1992-1993, alpine climbing conditions in the area were excellent due to record low snow falls. However, they changed dramatically in mid-March as a number of spring snow storms tracked through the region. (Source: Jasper National Park Warden Service)

(Editor’s Note: “Slipstream" is a dangerous route at even the best of times, as it is below a substantial snow field and seracs of the summit ice cap of Snow Dome. It has claimed several lives)