A bird's eye view of the Joffre landslides 

CASARA spotter Wilfried Braun captured the images two days after a second slide tore away a massive chunk of Joffre Peak's northeast face

click to enlarge Debris from two massive landslides on Joffre Peak's northeast face is visible from the air on  Saturday, May 18. - PHOTO BY WILFRIED BRAUN
  • Photo by Wilfried Braun
  • Debris from two massive landslides on Joffre Peak's northeast face is visible from the air on Saturday, May 18.

Last week, news of a pair of massive landslides decimating the northeast slope of Joffre Peak tore through the South Coast's community of outdoor enthusiasts.

The first landslide occurred Monday, May 13 at 7:40 a.m., affecting the Cerise Creek area and ending on the flats just south of Cayoosh Creek and Highway 99, north of Pemberton.

"Debris appears to have spanned 500-850 metres in width and travelled a total distance of roughly 5.2 kilometres," a BC Parks spokesperson told Pique.

Then, a second slide occurred on Thursday, May 16 on the same side of the mountain, effectively shearing off a wide swath of the prominent face.

Naturally, avid hiker and Abbottsford resident Wilfried Braun couldn't resist the opportunity to scope out the damage for himself over the May long weekend.

A longtime volunteer spotter with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), Braun accepted CASARA pilot Daniel Jun's invitation to head up for a bird's eye view—and to snap a few photos—on Saturday, May 18.

"It's more and more impressive when you see it with your own eyes," said Braun when reached by phone. "When you see a picture, you see one thing. The picture I had, with the whole slide in one picture, that was actually an awesome opportunity because from the right angle, that (view of the slide) wasn't published before."

click to enlarge Joffre Peak's northeast face and the Cerise Creek area as pictured on Saturday, May 18. - PHOTO BY WILFRIED BRAUN
  • Photo by Wilfried Braun
  • Joffre Peak's northeast face and the Cerise Creek area as pictured on Saturday, May 18.

The resulting damage, he added, "was obviously more devastating than expected."

Following the slides, experts told Pique the hiking trail in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, located on the opposite side of the mountain to the slides, remained unaffected.

Though debris appears to be falling into Upper Joffre Lake in one shot captured by Braun, he estimates that's the result of normal springtime activity—but adds that this year's activity, by his estimates, might have resulted in slightly more debris falling into the lake than usual.

"In the spring, when the snow starts to melt there's little slides here and there," explained Braun. "It seems like it's a constant crumbling coming down (into the lake), it's just the opposite side of the slide, so there's obviously something going on there.

"It's hard to judge it that way, but it looks interesting from that angle, that's for sure," he added.

click to enlarge Upper Joffre Lake, pictured on May 18, after  two massive landslides decimated the opposite side of the mountain. - PHOTO BY WILFRIED BRAUN
  • Photo by Wilfried Braun
  • Upper Joffre Lake, pictured on May 18, after two massive landslides decimated the opposite side of the mountain.

Though landslides are common in steep, mountainous topography, in this case, the northeast slope's failure was likely "preconditioned by the amount of alpine permafrost melting" seen in recent years, Brent Ward, co-director of the Centre for Natural Hazards Research in the Earth Sciences Department at Simon Fraser University, told Pique last week.

So did seeing the significant damage for himself make Braun re-consider hiking in the Joffre region this year?

"Obviously, safety is always a concern. It just makes you more aware, but it wouldn't stop me at all from going again," he said.

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