A Washington man is dead after he fell down a crevasse this weekend on a glacier in the Pemberton Icefield.
Police said the sledder was with a group of nine others on Saturday, March 19 when he tumbled approximately 30 metres down a crevasse on the Appa Glacier, a popular area for snowmobilers.
“They discovered that one of their group had disappeared and when they retraced their steps they saw snowmobile tracks going into a crevasse,” explained Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair. “They were not able to make contact with him, so search and rescue was activated.”
While waiting for search and rescue personnel to arrive, the group used a flare to signal a passing helicopter containing a group of heli-skiers and an experienced heli-guide. The guide enlisted the help of another heli-tour leader, who roped down the crevasse, where they found the sledder deceased.
The BC Coroners Service has not yet named the victim, a 53-year-old male from the Seattle area. The man, along with the other members of the group, were said to be seasoned snowmobilers, with at least 10 years experience each, police said.
LeClair had some safety tips for other sledders considering heading out to the backcountry.
“I’m not an expert snowmobiler by any means, but when you’re recreating in the backcountry make sure that you are carrying appropriate equipment,” he said. “People need to be carrying first aid equipment and not relying on search and rescue. Your safety plan shouldn’t be to call 911, your safety plan should include carrying first aid gear, carrying self-extrication gear, and being responsible for your own safety out there.”
Local authorities and search and rescue crews have been dealing with a rise in snowmobile-related incidents in recent years, LeClair noted. Just this past week, Whistler Search and Rescue was activated on three separate occasions as a result of a snowmobiling accident: One near Grizzly Lake in Whistler, another at Gin and Tonic Lake, and the third on Sproatt Mountain.
“With the machines getting more powerful and more capable, people are pushing their limits and getting injured as a result,” said LeClair. “Those other three incidents were a perfect example of this: We’ve got three people injured; there were two shoulder injuries and one chest injury, and it’s concerning. It’s taxing search and rescue for sure.”
The investigation, led by the coroner with the cooperation of the RCMP, continues.
More to come.