A rescue team has recovered the body of a skier from a glacier crevasse near Lake Louise, Alta.
Mark Taylor, director of the parks department in Abbotsford, B.C., fell into the crevasse on the Wapta Traverse in Yoho National Park on March 12 while on a five-day cross-country ski trip with two friends.
"The family is in our thoughts and the whole team and Parks Canada really wish to extend our sincere condolences to the family," said Omar McDadi, spokesman for Banff, Kootenay and Yoho national parks.
Taylor's body was found about 20 metres below the surface of the glacier. Efforts to reach him had been delayed by unpredictable weather, rough terrain and the threat of an avalanche.
"Today's operation was technically challenging but the team was really committed to getting in there as soon as they possibly could," said McDadi.
The rescue team is now off the mountain and the body has been transferred to B.C. authorities. An autopsy will determine whether it was the fall or the conditions that killed Taylor.
'A sad day'
"By all counts and by the estimation of the visitor safety team, these were experienced people. They knew what they were doing and sometimes it can happen to anyone, even the most experienced people," McDadi told CBC News.
"Accidents happen, small mistakes sometimes are made. Unfortunately, it is part of the mountain experience and it's definitely a sad day when something like this happens."
After days of bad weather, a helicopter managed to fly over the area on Tuesday, dropping seven rescuers with skis and equipment.
Brad White, a visitor safety specialist with Parks Canada, said the rescue crew had to dig out several metres of snow blocking the crevasse to get to Taylor's body.
"Crews had to get inside and actually do some shovelling and snow removal, which is reasonably difficult, but there was not too much objective danger — there wasn't pieces of ice or other snow bridges hanging over head," he said.
About a dozen people were involved in the search, and emergency crews remained hopeful Tuesday afternoon they would be able to find the skier alive.
Crews worked until darkness in the recovery effort, and managed to locate Taylor before having to ski back to a hut about an hour away that had been equipped with camping gear.
Poor weather a factor
The three skiers were at an elevation of about 2,600 metres on the Wapta Traverse in the Rocky Mountains when Taylor fell.
His friends activated emergency beacons and made a shelter in the snow, keeping warm using their stove. They were rescued on Friday.
A helicopter was able to touch down on the glacier late Sunday afternoon, but crews couldn't reach the mouth of the crevasse before dark.
"There's been storms, there's been blizzards and it has just not been safe to fly," said McDadi.
"It's very challenging terrain. We are talking about the heart of the Canadian Rockies…It's a popular backcountry ski destination in the winter, as well as for hikers in the summer. But we are talking about wilderness here. It's profound wilderness."
Friends and family in Abbotsford had been holding out hope that Taylor had somehow survived. But on Tuesday night, a former colleague reacted to news of his death.
Former Abbotsford mayor George Peary said Taylor dedicated himself to expanding the programming capacity of the city's parks and recreation centres and was at the helm when the city played host to numerous international sporting events over the last decade.
"He was a hard worker and certainly the city of Abbotsford and all of our citizens were extremely well served by him," Peary told CBC News.
Peary said Taylor was an adventurous man.
"He loved the out of doors, especially the alpine environment. He was passionate and happiest when he was out on the trails," Peary said.
"He was always very well prepared, very conscientious. He was a lean sort of fellow, he didn't pack around a lot of weight. He was 6'1, 6'2, and had an amazing gait. I would take three steps to one of his because he had this stride, and he loved life."