Whistler RCMP has recovered the bodies of three hikers who were reported missing earlier Monday, Jan. 12.
Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said indications are the tragedy was a result of "a catastrophic slip-and-fall accident" that took place near the top of Joffre peak's central couloir when one of the hikers fell and brought down the others, who were tied together.
"There was no avalanche debris, so it didn’t appear the cornice broke off or anything like that," he added.
Initial reports indicated the group was ice climbing the couloir, but police are now saying it appeared they were walking up the couloir wearing crampons.
Early information suggests the group was experienced in the backcountry, police said.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13, the BC Coroners Service identified the victims as 35-year-old Elena Cernicka of North Vancouver, 31-year-old Neil Charles Mackenzie and 30-year-old Stephanie Grothe, who were both residing in Vancouver. Mackenzie is originally from Scotland, while Grothe is from Germany. The Province is reporting that Grothe was working on her physics PhD at the University of British Columbia, where she also served on the executive board of the Varsity Outdoors Club. She was an avid hiker and lover of the outdoors who regularly explored B.C.'s wilderness, the newspaper reported.
The three were part of a group of hikers and skiers in the area that had made plans to rendezvous at the end of the day. The skiers went searching for the hikers when they didn’t arrive on time. LeClair said one of the female victims was separated from the group in the fall and her body was discovered by her husband just after 1:30 a.m. Police were unable to access the area at that time and initiated the search at first light on Monday, with the two remaining victims' bodies discovered shortly after.
This article has been edited as more information became available.