One dead, one missing following avalanche on Mount Brewer, B.C.

Darrian Matassa-Fung / January 14, 2019

A group of snowmobilers were on Mount Brewer when an avalanche swept away two members of the party.
(Avalanche Canada)

According to an Avalanche Canada report, a group of snowmobilers were on Mount Brewer in the Purcell Mountains when an avalanche engulfed two of the riders.

One snowmobiler was found deceased buried two meters underneath the snow with an activated airbag, but unfortunately it was not enough to save the victim.

The other is still missing but a transceiver signal was located at the bottom of the avalanche on a lake.

Avalanche Canada says the avalanche was around 400 meters wide and reached lengths of up to one kilometre long. They call the avalanche a ‘Deep Persistent Slab’ avalanche. This occurs when two layers of snow from different snowfalls in the winter season slip due to warmer temperatures.

Avalanche Canada still has an avalanche warning in the Purcell Mountains. The warning states that there is a high risk of avalanche in the alpine elevations, and a considerable risk in the treeline elevation.
Avalanche Canada’s Communication Director says that avalanche conditions are too hard to predict whether or not the conditions are too dangerous for experienced backcountry enthusiasts.

“Too hard to predict if the conditions are too dangerous, even professionals have been killed. Training is the most important and understanding the risk, avalanches are very complex, you need to understand what to look for when an avalanche is starting.” – Mary Clayton – Avalanche Canada Communications Director

This avalanche comes 11 days after Chris McCrum lost his life in an avalanche in Pemberton’s backcountry.

McCrum and his party had all the requisite avalanche equipment needed, but it was not enough to save McCrum’s life.

North Shore Rescue Spokesperson Mike Danks says just having the equipment not sufficient enough to guarantee your safety.

“If you’re going to be going outside of the controlled terrain of our local mountains, then you need to have avalanche safety equipment with you. That really comes down to a transceiver, probe, shovel. Just having those isn’t the answer though. You also need to have the training to understand how to use those and how to navigate through avalanche terrain safely.” North Shore Rescue Spokesperson Mike Danks

Squamish adventurer Chris McCrum died in an avalanche in Pemberton’s backcountry on January 3rd.

(Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association)

One thing is for certain, avalanches don’t care if you have the equipment or the training. Sometimes the best safety is judgement and deciding that the conditions are too risky. With temperatures rising, the risk may be too high for adventurers no matter how experience they have. Stay safe everyone.

With files from Graham Cox and Jesse Day