Avalanche takes 3 scramblers on 'very rough ride' in Alberta's Kananaskis Country

Avalanche takes 3 scramblers on 'very rough ride' in Alberta's Kananaskis Country

Neil Hope suffered a broken jaw, nose and cheekbone when he and two friends were swept up by an avalanche in Alberta's Kananaskis Country on Tuesday, but he says it could have been much worse.

"The biggest thing, is just how fortunate I feel we are," he said via email from hospital in Calgary.

"I was very fortunate to be the only somewhat serious casualty in the party, and had two incredible friends to help keep me going ... All three of us helped keep each other even and spirits high as we set out to keep warm and make our way down the mountain."

The injured group had activated a SPOT beacon to summon rescuers after the avalanche settled and they assessed how serious Hope's injuries were. But it wasn't immediately clear if or when help would arrive, so at first they set out for safety on their own.

"Fortunately help was able to arrive via the air, and we were slowly able to transition from a team of three with a goal off the mountain and to a hospital, to following the direction of the first responders," he said.

'Very rough ride'

Kananaskis Country Public Safety (KCPS) officials said the group was airlifted out of the mountains west of Nakiska Ski Resort after getting caught in a "significant avalanche" while scrambling in the area.

"They definitely scraped down some rocks," said Michael Olsthoorn​ with KCPS, who was involved in the rescue and said the party members were carried nearly 200 metres down a slope.

Hope said the avalanche happened at about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday as the group was making its way up Windtower, a peak just east of the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Even with relatively little snow in some parts of the mountains so far this year, Olsthoorn​ said it's important to carry avalanche rescue equipment and to evaluate terrain carefully for avalanche risk.

"I think the big thing for all recreationalists, especially now that we're in winter conditions, is to have a look at the avalanche bulletin," he said. "It's posted regularly and our crews are out just about on a daily basis to look at the snow conditions."

The latest bulletins can be found on the Avalanche Canada website.

Public safety officials also advise backcountry users to take an AST (avalanche skills training) course.

- ANALYSIS | Avalanche death rates on the decline as Canadians develop greater 'respect' for mountains

Clarification : The scramblers were on their way up Windtower, not Wind Mountain, as public safety officials initially said. The peaks are in the same vicinity, about five kilometres apart.(Dec 22, 2016 10:00 AM)