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Snowshoers recovered from deadly avalanche

The bodies of two snowshoers reported missing and presumed dead were recovered by Parks Canada, March 17.

Visitor safety specialists completed their recovery operation about 20 minutes north of Lake Louise off the Icefields Parkway before 10:30 a.m. The danger of further avalanches kept rescuers from accessing the area of Mount Andromache and Mount Hector for several days.

According to police, on March 14 RCMP in Golden, B.C., received a missing persons complaint from a hotel in nearby Field. Hotel staff told police that two registered guests who were expected to check out on Monday had not done so and their room appeared untouched. RCMP in Golden forwarded this information to the Lake Louise RCMP detachment and a missing persons investigation was launched.

Early information indicated that the pair was a 32-year-old man and 32-year-old woman who were visiting from Boston, Mass. and were on a snowshoe trip. The man and woman were last seen on March 11 when they had breakfast in Field. According to the RCMP, investigators were able to determine they had rented a vehicle and notified Parks Canada visitor safety just after noon on March 14.

At 3 p.m. that same day, the rental vehicle was found at the Mount Hector trailhead on Highway 93. Snow cover on the vehicle and in the parking lot indicated that the car had been parked there for some time.

Visitor safety specialists hiked up the mountain and saw that the area had been hit by at least one avalanche, but avalanches conditions were too high in the area to safely put rescuers on the ground.

“Snowshoe tracks were seen leading into avalanche debris with no track leading out and then late afternoon (on March 16) before it got dark we were able to do a fly over with the helicopter and we were able to pick up two avalanche transceiver signals which led us to believe the people were likely in that debris,” said Tania Peters, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada.

Avalanche control work was conducted on March 16 allowing Parks Canada to safely enter the site at first light on March 17. Once avalanche conditions were deemed safe enough to conduct the recovery operation both snowshoers were located and successfully extracted by 10:30 a.m. on March 17th.

“The thoughts of all Parks Canada staff are with the family and friends of those involved,” said Parks Canada in a press release.


Paul Clarke

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