UPDATE: 2/21/2019 – 0500 PST :
The body of Remi Michalowski, 39, who had been missing since Monday (Feb. 18), when an avalanche hit him and a friend while out on an overnight trip, has been recovered. His friend, a 30-year-old man, was able to cling to a tree and call 911, before being rescued by search crews.
North Shore Rescue’s Mike Danks confirmed Michalowski’s body was found around 11:45 am on Wednesday (Feb. 20).
“Our condolences go out to the family. This has to be a very challenging thing to lose a son. I’m just thankful we were able to provide closure,” said Danks. “It was a lot of effort I think they searched that debris for more than a couple hours there,” said Danks of the recovery effort.
Adverse weather conditions prevented rescuers searching Tuesday, but they resumed their efforts Wednesday.
The avalanche danger remains considerable. Temperatures are predicted to increase during the day, North Shore Rescue said, and avalanche danger in the area will be monitored carefully.
The family of a hiker believed to have been swept away by an avalanche in the BC backcountry Monday is holding out hope he is still alive as unfavorable weather leaves rescuers unable to search for him. A low cloud ceiling over the area located near Seymour prevented rescuers from reaching the area by helicopter Tuesday. It’s not safe for crews to attempt to reach the remote area between Runner Peak and Mount Elsay on foot with 10 centimeters of snow in the forecast.
The man’s mother identified him as 39-year-old Remi Michalowski, from Surrey. He’s an engineering student, and when he’s not hiking, the experienced outdoorsmen is up in the mountains, his family said. Michalowski’s mother and sister were on scene Tuesday meeting with teams leaders from North Shore Rescue.
“I understand they have their protocol. But those are mountains. On the mountains, there is always snow or fog,” Lidia Majerski, Michalowski’s mother, told CTV Vancouver. Michalowski’s sister, Peata, echoed those sentiments: “We thought this is what they were trained for, to go out there in the snow.”
Michalowski was snowshoeing with a friend when he was swept away by an avalanche near a challenging area between Runner Peak and Mount Elsay on Monday morning. His friend was able to cling to a tree and call for help and was airlifted off the peak later in the afternoon.
The search was suspended Monday night and the decision to delay further efforts for at least 24 hours was made early Tuesday as Environment Canada called for up to 10 centimeters of snow across parts of Metro Vancouver. North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks has said the situation does not look good for a positive outcome but the team will continue to hope for the best.
Despite improved conditions expected Wednesday, the continuing avalanche risk will limit the number of searchers and avalanche dogs that can be sent into the area, Danks said. After the rescued snowshoer was airlifted to safety, a team from Whistler Blackcomb ski resort dropped explosives from a helicopter to try to ease the danger of further slides. When the search resumes, crews will do avalanche control then head toward the area the missing snowshoer was last seen, aided by avalanche dogs. It is believed their mission is one of recovery and not rescue, as there have been no signs of Michalowski. He does not have an avalanche beacon, making the search difficult.
The Avalanche Canada website said 30 to 50 centimeters of recent snow may have created the risk of slab avalanches because the new snow is poorly bonded to the base. Avalanche conditions are rated as moderate at higher elevations of the North Shore mountains.
The rescue serves as a reminder that anyone heading into the backcountry should be prepared, and should check conditions on Avalanche Canada’s website before going uphill. Danks also reminded the public of the importance of having an avalanche beacon and safety equipment. The two hikers had the proper equipment for backcountry camping, including a satellite device so they could call for help, but they were not equipped for an avalanche and it is unclear whether they had avalanche training.