KANANASKIS, Alta. – Six ice climbers were caught in an avalanche in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary.
Mike Koppang, a public safety specialist with Kananaskis Country, says the slide happened on Saturday morning just as the six were discussing whether or not to continue due to deteriorating conditions.
Koppang says one climber was buried up to his chest in snow while another was left with only her foot sticking out.
He says the other climbers were able to get her out in about 90 seconds and that no one suffered any serious injuries.
Koppang says the climbers had activated an emergency locator beacon and were met by conservation officers as they were walking out on a trail.
Rescuers initially posted on a facebook page that a few climbers were taken by ambulance but Koppang says no one required an ambulance.
He says none of the climbers were wearing avalanche transceivers or were carrying shovels or probes.
“It was fortunate in that everyone was actually visible from the surface,” Koppang said.
The Kananaskis area has been under a snowfall warning for the weekend, which was extended late Saturday morning.
Koppang said the climbers noticed as they walked up to the base of the climb that snow was falling and that winds were picking up, and he says they began talking about whether they should continue.
“The group was actually sitting there making the decision regarding whether or not they were going to stay or go based on what they perceived as this rising avalanche danger,” Koppang said.
“As that conversation was going, the avalanche came down and hit them.”
Koppang said when his group got the information that an emergency beacon had been activated, they deduced it was ice climbers based on the location.
He said an alpine helicopter was dispatched, but that it had to turn back due to the bad weather.
Koppang said he didn’t know where the climbers were from.
“We always tell people to be sure to ask around and check a variety of different websites to try to figure out what’s going on out there in terms of the snow pack and the terrain,” Koppang said.
“If you’re not really sure how to make a good decision with avalanches, maybe look at taking a course or getting some more information so you do get better at making decisions.”