A lengthy high altitude emergency rescue attempt has been suspended, after searchers were unable to locate a 33-year-old Seattle, Washington woman, who had fallen while climbing in the Waddington Mountain range this past Sunday.
On Monday July 25 at 8:50 a.m. the Alexis Creek RCMP was notified of a climber who had fallen during a climb in the Waddington Mountain Range, West of Alexis Creek.
It was learned that 33-year-old Laurel Fan, of Seattle, Wash. fell during an ascent of a peak known as Serra Two in the Waddington Range near the Stiletto Glacier at an altitude of approximately 11,000 feet.
The fall occurred on Sunday afternoon, July 24, at approximately 3 p.m.
The woman had been amongst a group of three climbers who had commenced their climbing in the area on July 22 after being flown in.
Following the witnessed fall, and unable to visually locate Fan, the remaining two climbers descended from the area to summon help. The pair made it to a base camp with communications services early Monday morning. Upon receiving the information the Alexis Creek RCMP initiated and co-ordinated an effort to attend the area with the properly trained and qualified rescue technicians.
Although the search was outside of a Canada National Parks area, specific qualified technicians were identified among Parks Canada resources following the initial canvas of BCSAR technicians available.
On Tuesday, July 26, a Parks Canada Mountaineer team flew into the area and surveyed the site.
Following further canvassing of available resources in B.C. and Alberta, a search team of three Parks Canada professional climbers, an Alberta Provincial Parks technician and a BCSAR technician from Whistler SAR conducted a search on the mountain on Wednesda,y July 27, followed by another search Thursday.
On July 27, the group selected two crevasses to search which had the highest probability of locating the victim. Avalanche probe sticks were used. Avalanche activity prior to the July 27 morning search had spread snow over the search area over a metre deep.
On July 28 the climbers returned to the area with a Parks Canada search dog and handler from Banff and a search of the area which had been previously probed was searched with the dog.
An upper site at the 9,400 foot level and a lower site at the 9,000 foot level were searched without success. The area had multiple deep crevasses, some of which were of unknown total depths. Snow conditions observed also indicated that continuous natural avalanches had occurred in the area searched since the fall on Sunday.
“The extreme and dangerous conditions present, only permitted the searchers to be on the mountain face for three hrs per day, early in the morning from 5 until 8 a.m., given that daylight temperature changes caused worsening snow conditions. Given that the fall distance exceeded several hundred feet, searchers have made the determination that there was an extreme unlikelihood of her surviving the fall. The search was suspended following the possible efforts being completed today [Thursday]. The Alexis Creek RCMP has been in contact with Fan’s family throughout the week and is continuing to provide support to them,” said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
The Alexis Creek RCMP would like to express their gratitude to all the partner agencies who assisted in the rescue response this week, including White Saddle Helicopters Ltd.