British Columbia

Avalanches in B.C. and Alberta claim 3 more lives

The last couple of weeks of warmer weather and wet, heavy snow across have created extremely dangerous avalanche conditions in the mountainous regions of British Columbia and Alberta.

Snowpack is like mattress on marbles on hardwood floor, Canadian Avalanche Centre's Joe Lammers says

'Fundamentally unstable snowpack' claims 3 lives in B.C. and Alberta avalanches

8 years ago
Duration 2:27
A 34-year-old snowmobiler died in and avalanche in the Monashee Mountains, and two snowshoers died in and avalanche at Lake Louise this weekend.

The last couple of weeks of warmer weather and wet, heavy snow across have created extremely dangerous avalanche conditions in the mountainous regions of British Columbia and Alberta.

Over the weekend, three people — a snowmobiler and two snowshoers — died in two separate avalanches.

On Saturday, 34-year-old Adrian John "AJ" Cleary of Coldstream, B.C., was snowmobiling with a group of experienced riders in the Monashee Mountains east of Vernon when he was caught in an avalanche. 

Cleary was buried under about five metres of snow for two hours before rescuers were able to pull him out. Although he was revived, he died several hours later in hospital in Kelowna. 

Cleary, a Newfoundlander and the son of Come By Chance Mayor Joan Cleary, had been working in B.C. as a nurse. He leaves behind a wife, who is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Also on Saturday two snowshoers travelling in a group of five were killed at Lake Louise after an avalanche there. Someone in the group was able to call 911 and rescuers flew in by helicopter

Police said no one in the group had any avalanche safety gear, such as beacons, transceivers, shovels or probes.

'Fundamentally unstable snowpack'

The Canadian Avalanche Centre's Joe Lammer says much of B.C. and the Rockies is still facing a high avalanche risk that goes back to February's cold snap.

"After that first week in February, pretty much throughout the province, those weak layers got buried and, you know, deep in the snowpack there is a hard surface plus weak sugary layers, and then this new snow on top," Lammers said.

"So it is kind of like that hardwood floor with marbles on top of that, and then a big white mattress on top of that. So, just a fundamentally unstable snowpack," he said.

In some places the danger is at every elevation. This past weekend, several B.C. highways were closed for avalanche control measures, including Highway 1 between Revelstoke and Golden and Highway 3 at Kootenay Pass.

Photos: B.C. highway avalanche control

With files from the CBC's Susana da Silva


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