British Columbia

2 climbers rescued from B.C. avalanche after placing call to Poland for help

Two Polish mountain climbers were rescued by B.C. emergency responders after surviving an avalanche in Mt. Robson Park and calling home for help.

The mountaineers' only call was to Poland when they were hit by a wall of snow on Whitehorn Mountain

Whitehorn Mountain is located in Mt. Robson Provincial Park near Valemount, B.C. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

B.C. emergency dispatchers were surprised to get a call from the Polish Embassy in Ottawa, urging them to send rescuers to a mountain in the B.C. Rockies where two climbers had been caught in an avalanche. 

Robson Valley Search and Rescue manager Dale Mason says the pair were climbing Whitehorn Mountain, near Mt. Robson, on Monday morning when they were hit by a wall of snow.

"They tumbled quite a ways down the mountain in the deposit. They ended up on the top of it, and they were able to call for help," he said.

But the survivors didn't call within B.C. — or even Canada. The Polish mountaineers used their satellite phone to call someone in their home country.

Whitehorn Mountain is in the north Rockies, which does not receive a daily avalanche forecast.

B.C. Emergency Health Services communications officer Shannon Miller said she can only guess why. 

"They were probably in shock and so they just hit the phone and dialled Poland," she said.

Polish Embassy kept informed

The call was routed through the Polish Embassy in Canada, and then to B.C. before BCEHS could send an air ambulance and the Robson Valley SAR team could help rescue the pair from steep terrain. 

"That we have a provincial service was key to getting all the quick coordination of our dispatch," said Miller, who adds that the Polish Embassy was kept informed throughout the rescue.

The climbers, whose names have not been released, were flown to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops with serious injuries.


Audrey McKinnon

Freelance contributor

Audrey McKinnon is a former host and reporter at CBC Radio. She lives in Prince George, B.C. where she works as a writer and artist.