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Major Alpine Climbs on North Face of Joffre Peak Collapse

Early last week, part of the north face of Joffre Peak in B.C. collapsed in a massive landslide, destroying a number of ski and climbing lines. Later in the week, another massive collapse of the wall destroyed most of the north face and the main north couloir. John Cassidy, an earthquake seismologist, said the latest slide happened at 9:03 a.m. on Thursday.

He said on social media that the rockfall was registered on on seismometers nearly 300 kilometres away on Vancouver Island. Climber, hydrologist and geoscientist Drew Brayshaw, who has climbed on Joffre Peak, said it seems that the slide went more than four kilometres down Cerise Creek in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

“As soon as I saw the scar of that second landslide, which was right next to the first, it is obvious that the failure plane is continuing through the mountain, it is almost vertical,” he said in an interview with the National Post.

“That strongly suggests that the next buttress over on the face of the mountain … I would say is more likely than not, going to fall off. The question is just when.”

“These large landslides can be catastrophic,” said Brent Ward, co-director for the Centre for Natural Hazards Research at Simon Fraser University. “If this had happened later in the summer, when there’s a whole bunch of people on the trails, we would’ve had fatalities.”

The loss of the north-facing couloirs and alpine climbs up the north side are a huge loss to the climbing and skiing community. Major rockfalls are common in the spring and can occur throughout the summer and fall. Hopefully, these are isolated events and the trend will not continue into the alpine climbing season.