According to reports, on 18 April three mountaineers are presumed dead due to an avalanche that occurred in Banff National Park on 17 April. As stated by Parks Canada, the three climbers—one U.S. national and two Austrian nationals—were attempting a route on the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway when one or more avalanches occurred.
Recovery efforts have reportedly been stalled on 18 April due to dangerous weather conditions, including precipitation, strong winds and a continued risk of avalanches in the area.
The three mountaineers were all reportedly well-known and experienced professional climbers who were attempting a difficult route known as M16. According to Parks Canada, the east face of Howse Peak is remote and “exceptionally difficult” terrain with mixed rocks and ice routes that require advance mountaineering skills. Howse Peak has an elevation of 3,29�5 meters (10,810 feet).
Canada experiences thousands of avalanches each year in all regions, though particularly in mountains of British Colombia, Yukon and Alberta. They can be triggered by natural causes like warming temperatures, wind, rain, snow and earthquakes, also by man-made causes like skiers, snowmobiles, hikers and disturbances caused by construction. The most common causes of death in avalanches are suffocation, wounds and hypothermia.
Banff National Park is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, mountaineers and skiers. Avalanches are not uncommon and have caused fatalities in the past. On 31 March 2019, a man was killed by an avalanche in Banff National Park while backcountry skiing near Egypt Lake.
- Remain alert to avalanche danger and warning signs.
- Monitor local avalanche reports prior to embarking on your adventure.
- Plan routes in safe terrain.
- If unfamiliar with terrain, seek local knowledge to understand risks and challenges.
- When traveling to areas at-risk for avalanches, individuals should carry avalanche safety gear, including a beacon, probe and shovel.
- Prior to travel, individuals should take an avalanche survival training course.
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