It’s been a tragic winter for many backcountry ski and snowboard communities around the world due to avalanche fatalities. Over the past week, unstable snow in Canada’s mountains has led to a number of burials and at least two deaths.
An avalanche in Brandywine Bowl on Saturday afternoon claimed the life of climber and snowboarder Dave Henkel, 45, a member of the Squamish community. Outpourings of grief and disbelief flooded social media from his many friends and connections.
Whistler RCMP was notified of the slide shortly after 2 p.m. on Feb. 13. Multiple people were reportedly caught in the avalanche. Others in the area began searching for the missing snowboarder, as first responders from Whistler RCMP and Whistler Search and Rescue made their way to the Callaghan Valley area, about 15 kilometres south of Whistler Village. Henkel was located approximately 45 minutes later, but had tragically succumbed to his injuries, police said.
Saturday’s fatal incident came one day after a skier was killed and one other injured in a size three slide in the Poop Chutes area off Blackcomb Glacier. The third member of their group escaped unharmed. Another skier sustained serious injuries in a second, smaller avalanche that occurred earlier Friday afternoon in the Phalanx area close to the Spearhead Glacier. The individual was flown via air ambulance to a Lower Mainland hospital.
“[There have been] four serious Search and Rescue calls in the last [three] days, [two] of them fatal, and a multitude of serious injuries,” said Sea to Sky RCMP Sgt. Sascha Banks in the release.
“The calls speak for themselves… the backcountry in the Sea to Sky is not stable at the moment, it’s time to wait and postpone your touring trip here for another time. This is hard on all of us: Search teams, bystanders, police, and most importantly the loved ones of those who have died and been injured. Their stories have valuable lessons… which we all need to learn from.”
Our condolences to Henkel’s friends and family.