A 30-year-old Calgary man sustained a knee injury on Tuesday after an avalanche swept him and his friend down a couloir in Banff National Park. The injured skier was carried 1,000-feet by the size 1.5 avalanche.
The avalanche occurred at 1:30pm on Tuesday in Grand Daddy Couloir off Bow peak in Banff National Park.
“My friend, who was above me, just yelled, ‘Avalanche!’ When I looked up, there was this white wall coming at me. I had nowhere to go, so my best option was to drive my ice axe into the snow and try to hold on for dear life.”
“It got dark and loud as it went over top of us.” – Chris Giddens, the injured avy victim
Chris was tumbling down Grand Daddy Couloir backwards and headfirst.
“I thought, ‘I am probably going to die,’ I thought, ‘Well, I am going to try my best not to die,’ so I was jamming elbows, hands, my back heels into the snow as I slid down and I was just going too fast to stop myself.
“I found myself spinning … and at one point I was on my belly going face down.” – Chris Giddens, the injured avy victim
Chris ended up on top of the avalanche debris with his knee in a lot of pain, his eyes blurry, calling for his friend.
Two other skiers were at the top of the couloir and weren’t caught in the avalanche.
“One guy, who had climbed further up, was above it and he witnessed some snow falling. The other guy who was with us said he had to jump out of the way and managed to get shelter behind an outcrop of rock. He was able to stay behind and avoid getting hit.”
They used a SPOT messenging device to alert the Lake Louise RCMP, who called Parks Canada’s mountain safety team.
Within two hours of activating the SPOT device, search and rescue found the men from helicopter. Chris and his friend were slung up into the helicopter and taken to the Mosquito Creek hostel where a medic cleared Chris and his friend to drive to the hospital on their own.
“They’re very lucky. They did a great job of splinting (the knee), and they activated that SPOT before it got too dark so we had enough time to action it.”
“They were up on the hazard and they had all of the right avalanche equipment and they were very experienced.” – Lisa Paulson, a Parks Canada visitor safety specialist who led the rescue.
It’s still unknown whether the avalanche was natural or human-triggered.
“We’re not sure if (the upper guy) initiated the avalanche or whether it was a natural slough off the side. As it hit the couloir, it gained some mass.”
Avalanche danger was rated at “LOW” at the time of the avalanche accident.
“Even in low hazard, avalanches can happen. Loose, dry avalanche in extreme terrain can have consequences.” – Lisa Paulson, a Parks Canada visitor safety specialist who led the rescue.