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Climbers OK After Avalanche on Polar Circus, Watch Avi Rip Down

The climbers were clipped to an anchor when the avi debris hit them

Photo by: Alex Ratson

Two climbers were hit by an avalanche on the famous 700-metre WI5 Canadian Rockies ice route Polar Circus this past weekend. Both rappelled down without serious injuries.

They shared their experienced on the Mountain Information Network (MIN) found on Avalanche Canada’s website. There are weekly posts by climbers and skiers about conditions in B.C. and Alberta’s mountains. You can read recent MINs here.

“We were climbing the second last pitch of Polar Circus when spin drifts started to get bigger,” the climbers reported. “So we decided to turn around. When we wanted to rappel over the pencil (around 2,000 metres above sea level) an avalanche around size 2 caught us. It must have strated in alpine zone. The debris was loose but due to the narrow gully above us pretty heavy.”

There’s potential for massive avalanches down Polar Circus, such as one captured in a photo by Alex Ratson over climber Quentin Roberts. There have also been a number of avalanche deaths on the route, including that of John Lauchlan in 1982.

“We were in the avalanche for around 30 seconds,” reported the climbers on Feb. 28. “Breathing was difficult. Luckily we were at a hanging belay so none of us got burried. We could then descend with no further incident. The most logical explanation to us is that the strong wind at high altitude caused the drifting snow avalanche.”

Always check avalanche conditions here before heading to the mountains. Watch an avalanche rip down Polar Circus in 2017 below.


Lead photo: Alex Ratson