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Avalanche kills ice climber in Kananaskis Country

"One member of the group was partly buried and able to dig themselves out. The other member was fully buried and did not survive."

KANANASKIS COUNTRY – One person is dead after an avalanche in Kananaskis Country struck a party of two at the foot of a popular ice climb in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Saturday (Nov. 11).

Avalanche Canada reported the size 2 avalanche hit the ice climbers after they finished the Lone Ranger route, near the base of the climb. 

"One member of the group was partly buried and able to dig themselves out. The other member was fully buried and did not survive," states the Avalanche Canada incident report.

"They were swept into a gully feature on the slope below."

Kananaskis Mountain Rescue was called to respond and Kananaskis RCMP was called to assist around 3:15 p.m. 

According to RCMP, rescuers located one of the climbers – a 26-year-old woman – however, they were unable to locate her climbing partner, a 29-year-old man from Squamish, B.C.

RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said emergency services was alerted to the incident by a Garmin inReach device, but was not immediately able to locate the man, who was fully buried in snow.

"As of today's date, Nov. 12, RCMP were informed that Kananaskis Emergency Services had located a deceased individual as a result of the avalanche," said Savinkoff, noting officers were alerted in the late morning the man's body had been found.

The woman involved sustained minor injuries, he added.

Avalanche Canada reported the avalanche originated from a wind slab which quickly formed above a reactive crust established on Nov. 10. 

"Other dry loose and wind slab avalanches were noted to have occurred in the area," states the incident report. 

The avalanche danger rating for Kananaskis Country as of Nov. 12 was rated considerable at alpine level, making natural avalanches possible and human-triggered avalanches likely. At treeline, the danger rating was moderate.

Avalanche Canada advises avoiding exposure to all alpine avalanche terrain until this "wind-induced avalanche cycle goes away."

The Lone Ranger ice climb spans two pitches and is rated as a 3+ (complex) route on Avalanche Canada's new terrain exposure scale for waterfall ice climbing. The rating reflects the prolonged risk of frequent avalanches, exposure and the challenge in minimizing danger through factors like belay spots and alternate descents.

The Ranger Creek area, which includes other ice climbs R&D and Chalice & the Blade, was closed Nov. 12.

Accessing the climbs, which are located above treeline, involves about an hour-long approach on foot.

"They all have serious avalanche terrain above and below the climbs. Climbers frequent these routes primarily between October and December, when the snowpack is minimal, however numerous incidents have still occurred during this time," states the Avalanche Canada website.

The Outlook reached out to AHS EMS and Alberta Parks to request an interview with rescue specialists.

This is the second avalanche fatality in Alberta this year. On April 22, one person was killed in a size 3 skier-triggered avalanche that involved three people in the west bowl area of Lake Louise Ski Resort.

There have been 14 avalanche fatalities in 2023 in British Columbia. 

Avalanche Fatalities in Canada from 2000 to 2023

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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