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Avalanche, Fall Into Crevasse, Poor Position, Weather, Inadequate Preparation, British Columbia, Mount Robson

AVALANCHE, FALL INTO CREVASSE, POOR POSITION, WEATHER, INADEQUATE PREPARATION

British Columbia, Mount Robson

A party of three (Party One) and a party of two (Party Two) were climbing Mount Robson via the Kain route on July 9. They set up camp in whiteout conditions, knowingly in an icefall area, but uncertain as to their exact location. The campsite was in a heavily crevassed area below seracs. Three climbers over-nighted in a tent while two members of Party One bivied nearby.

At 0610, a falling serac caused a class 3.5 avalanche, which swept the tent and occupants down the slope approximately 100 meters. One of the climbers bivouacking was swept down 40 meters, and the second bivouacker was swept into a crevasse just below the bivi site. He landed on a snow bridge 12 meters down in the crevasse. The remainder of the party conducted a search for the missing climber for 1.5 hours without success, then walked to Berg Lake Ranger Station to report the incident.

Park wardens responded from Jasper to Mount Robson, while Robson park rangers conducted a reconnaissance flight over the area. First party responders landed at the bottom of the avalanche path and began to search the debris; the second party consisting of wardens and two avalanche search dogs, flew to the top of the path and searched in the vicinity of the campsite. The missing climber was located near the campsite in a crevasse, and a warden was lowered in to recover the body.

Analysis

The party set up camp in white-out conditions and were not aware of their exact location. The camp was established in an area of very high objective hazard. Icefall caused a class 3.5 avalanche which swept over the campsite area. The experience level of the combined groups was intermediate, with poor map reading skills. They did not have transceivers. Consultations before departure with readily available local resources about the placement of camps and their relative dangers would have been helpful. (Source: Parks Canada Warden Service)