Rescuers are describing the snowmobiler who survived a 95-foot fall down a crevasse on the Pemberton Ice Cap last weekend as "an incredibly lucky guy."
The man, believed to be from British Columbia, was reportedly following his nephew up a steep mountain face and over a blind snow lip when he plunged into the opening near Ryan Lake. A Pemberton Search and Rescue manager, Dave Steers, says the rider would have had "zero opportunity" to see the crevasse.
"What he fell into is technically called a bergschrund, where the ice has receded, forming a crack between the rock face and the ice layer," he explains. "The first rider managed to jump across by hitting a narrower spot but this guy was two or three feet away and went straight down."
Other experienced sledders on the scene managed to hoist the man out before the rescue helicopters arrived, but he was quickly flown to Whistler Hospital because of concerns over his hypothermic state and suspected broken leg. Steers says the fact that the rider ended up walking away with nothing worse than bad bruising is amazing.
"There were so many ifs that could have changed the type of situation we were dealing with," he says. "He was also super lucky that a team of experienced and equipped people were nearby."
However, search and rescue officials believe this accident is just the tip of the iceberg if other riders dont take it as a warning. Steers says this seasons low snow levels and warm weather has resulted in multiple hazards in the alpine.
"We are encouraging people to be incredibly cautious because there are only thin layers of snow covering crevasses, and snowbridges that are normally there have rotted away in the warm weather."
He says there is no point signposting where the cracks are opening up because there are literally hundreds of them over the Pemberton ice-cap.
Steers says backcountry users should be fully prepared for self-rescue by carrying Peips, shovels, probes and, as this accident has shown, ropes.
"Make sure you know how to use the gear and travel only with people who know the terrain and which areas to avoid," Steers says.
Cell-phones transmission is extremely limited on the ice-cap so riders should carry satellite phones, he added.