Argentine climber rescued after 4 days stranded on Yukon's Mount Logan

Natalia Martinez, a climber who was stranded on Canada's highest peak for four days, has been rescued. A pair of earthquakes in the area on Monday made the terrain too dangerous for her to leave her camp.

Natalia Martinez was stuck at campsite after earthquakes Monday made leaving too dangerous

The rescue team after it landed at Icefield Discovery Tours base camp. From left, Trans North Helicopters pilot Ian Pitchforth, Parks Canada's Sara Chisholm and Scott Stewart, Natalia Martinez, and Parks Canada's David Blakeburn. (Lance Goodwin/Icefield Discovery Tours)

Natalia Martinez, an Argentine climber rescued off Yukon's Mount Logan Thursday night, did "everything right" in preparing for her ill-fated expedition, says the Parks Canada official who led the rescue mission.

Martinez had been stranded about 3,700 metres up Canada's highest peak since Monday, after a pair of earthquakes hit the area, making the terrain too dangerous for her to leave her camp.

After a lucky break in the weather on Thursday, the rescue team sprang into action, knowing they likely had a small window to work in. A Trans North Helicopters pilot was able to rescue the 37-year-old at about 9:15 p.m. PT.

Camilo Rada, Martinez's partner, said he can't wait to hold her in his arms. He received word at around 7:30 p.m. Thursday that an attempt was going to be made to rescue her a day earlier than expected.

"It suddenly reverted to a situation where everything happened very quickly, and now she is back safe and I am extremely, extremely happy," he told CBC from his home in British Columbia.

Rada said he waited "very nervously" for about three hours before he received a call from one of the rescuers.

"He called me saying that Natalia was with them in the helicopter, in the back seat with a big smile," Rada said.

'It was such a relief to know that she was safe and very close to being back in a safe and warm and welcome place,' said Martinez's partner Camilo Rada, who flew to Yukon on Friday to meet her. (Steve Hossack/CBC)

"It was such a relief to know that she was safe and very close to being back in a safe and warm and welcome place."

Martinez wasn't able to speak directly to Rada, but she could hear his voice.

"So I said, 'You made it. I'm so happy and see you tomorrow.' And [I]told her 'I love you.'"

Rada flew to Whitehorse Friday afternoon to reunite with Martinez in Haines Junction, at the boundary of Kluane National Park. That's where the rescue operation was staged from.

'She had adequate planning'

Martinez, an experienced climber and adventurer, had been holed up in her camp battling snow and high winds.

"As a mountaineer, I really respect the way that Natalia managed to get through all that situation," Rada said.

Argentine climber Natalia Martinez was rescued Thursday night after getting stranded on Canada's highest peak — Mount Logan in Yukon. (Arran Whiteford via Icefield Discovery Tours)

"To keep herself safe through the storm that followed and to keep her mind sound through all those hardships by herself, I think is a really amazing feat."

Scott Stewart, visitor safety co-ordinator at the park, co-ordinated the rescue mission and he agrees — Martinez "did everything right."

"She had adequate planning, she had adequate experience and she had adequate equipment, including communications, for her chosen undertaking on the mountain."

What she hadn't counted on, though, were a couple of large earthquakes.

"Certainly flying in last night, we saw a number of large avalanches and ice falls that were recent, in the past three or four days," Stewart said. 

Parks Canada could not say yet who will pay for the rescue.

"We have to figure out the total cost of this incident and evaluate the circumstances that led to the rescue, and then we'll be treating it as a unique situation and taking it from there," said Diane Wilson, superintendent for Parks Canada's Yukon field unit.

"Overall, search and rescue in National Parks is generally covered by the [Parks Canada]."

The ice fields of Yukon's Kluane National Park, with Mount Logan in the distance. At 5,959 metres, it's Canada's highest peak. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Tea, warm meal and hot shower

Parks Canada was aided in the rescue operation by Icefield Discovery Tours, the outfitters who flew Martinez to the mountain's base camp.

Tom Bradley, chief pilot with Icefield Discovery Tours, scoped out the weather Thursday afternoon while bringing a tour group up the mountain, and alerted rescuers to the break. He was also at Icefield's base camp when the helicopter carrying Martinez touched down, at about 10:30 p.m. PT.

"That was a great sight to see," he told CBC Friday morning.

"She had her fan club here, which was just a couple of us and a couple of dogs here, but we were very happy to see her and put the jug on for a cup of tea."

Bradley said Martinez was in good shape, but "a little shocked."

"She obviously endured a rough time up there. The earthquake, for want of a better term, really shook her up and … she actually had to go through quite a strong storm."

He said they fed Martinez a warm meal Thursday night, and she took a hot shower.

Today, Bradley said, she's sleeping in.

With files from Steve Hossack, Elyn Jones and Sandi Coleman


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