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SAR save woman wedged in glacier crevasse

Glacier hikers urged to use ropes to stay safe

Whistler Search and Rescue are advising people who are ski-touring glaciers in the backcountry to keep themselves roped together after a crevasse rescue Sunday.

At around 12:30 p.m. a 26-year-old B.C. woman crashed through a snow bridge on the Spearhead Traverse and fell nine metres into a bergschrund crevasse where she became lodged.

The group was luckily within cell-phone range and her two male companions called 911 and a rescue got underway immediately. Nine rescuers went to the area in two helicopters.

Fortunately the weather was good and the woman was uninjured, all of which helped the rescue have a happy ending.

But said Whistler SAR manager Brad Sills, during the course of the rescue it became clear that, while the party was well equipped and in good physical shape, none of them had a rope.

Indeed two more ski touring groups on the same path who stopped to help were also not roped together and without ropes.

“You should be roped,” said Sills.

“The basic rule is that anytime you are on a glacier you should be roped. Unfortunately in the Whistler area people have not been doing that and so we are reminding people that when they are traveling on glaciers they should be roped.”

This rescue could have turned sour if anything had delayed SAR.

People who fall into crevasses slowly melt the ice around them, slipping further and further down and wedging themselves more tightly into an already tight space.

“You gradually slip further and further down and it is so tight a rescuer can’t get to you,” explained Sills.

“I want to make sure that people understand this. People sometimes say, ‘Oh well, I fell in a hole. Big deal.’ But it is not always possible to get you out and so you need to be roped.”

The woman was finally pulled to safety around 3:45 p.m.

“The snow bridge collapsed because the snow was rotten and she fell through and you never know when that is going to happen,” said Sills.

“You don’t know when you are over a crevasse.

“It is a great time for ski touring — the days are long and warm — but the snow is rotting and you have to take precautions.”