Calgary

Mount Yamnuska reopened after death and injuries over weekend but dangers remain, warns official

Officials have reopened Mount Yamnuska to hikers after one death and two injuries over the weekend but warn that it is not an appropriate destination for beginners. 

A safety official says the mountain is not appropriate for beginners

Mount Yamnuska is one of the closest mountains to Calgary and a popular destination for both rock climbers and hikers/scramblers, but it is not appropriate for beginners, official warns. (Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section/Facebook)

Officials have reopened Mount Yamnuska to hikers after one death and two injuries over the weekend but warn it is not an appropriate destination for beginners.

Mike Koppang, with Alberta Parks' Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section, said the mountain can be a tempting destination. 

"So we are seeing people maybe try some new things that are closer to home, and Yamnuska is kind of like that first major mountain that you see heading out from Calgary, and that's a fairly prominent peak. It's quite a beautiful peak and it's steeped in history for the area," he said.

"So it can be a very popular first destination, I'm just not sure it's the most appropriate first destination."

Crowded area

Koppang said the parking lot was so full on Saturday, crews had a hard time getting an ambulance into the area due to all the traffic and the overcrowded lot. 

He said many people are out trying new things in light of travel restrictions this summer, but warns they should be prepared and informed about what they're getting themselves into. 

Koppang said Yamnuska has considerable risks and is not a marked or maintained trail. 

"It's got a lot of risks in terms of rockfall potential, route-finding, there's some steeper areas that are exposed," he said. "There's a variety of different things that can happen on that mountain if you're not prepared for that. You can get into trouble."

Death on the slope

The man who died on Saturday was coming down a scree slope — a slope of loose rocks — when he lost his footing and tumbled. 

He came to a stop and was being helped by bystanders when a dislodged boulder came down the mountain and struck him in the head. 

Despite care provided by bystanders and emergency personnel, the man died from his injuries. 

"Often when you move down that scree, you can either generate rockfall with you as you're moving down or there can be rockfall generated by other people," said Koppang. 

"It's hard to say exactly what led to that rockfall, the second one, but he was struck by a large boulder."

Other incidents

Two others also suffered minor injuries on Saturday in separate incidents, one on the opposite side of the mountain and another near the parking lot. 

A fourth person was lost for a time in the trees but was talked down to safety by text message. 

Koppang says hikers should research their routes prior to heading to the mountains and should have appropriate footwear, clothing, a paper map and the skills to read one. 

Jeremy Mackenzie, public safety specialist at Alberta Parks, says they responded to a dozen calls over 10 hours on Saturday — what he thinks it might have been one of the busiest days on record.

He also noticed a 50 per cent increase in rescue calls compared to the same time last year. The calls ranged from scrambling, hiking, and mountain biking accidents to river rescues and people getting lost.

He said people need to understand the difference in hike ratings versus scrambles.

"An easy scramble rating would be a very difficult hike rating, and a lot of people aren't understanding that."

Ratings also vary from source to source too, he added. He recommends visitors don't push themselves beyond their comfort zones and skill levels and that people carefully plan their trips. That includes letting someone know about their trip plans and when they can be expected to return.

With files from Dave Gilson

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