Earthquakes leave climber stranded on Canada's highest mountain
The series of earthquakes that struck northern B.C. and the Yukon this week has trapped an experienced climber on the highest mountain in the country.
Natalia Martinez, an Argentinian woman whose partner lives in Vancouver, was nine days into a solo climb of Mount Logan when the quakes hit on Monday, triggering multiple avalanches in her vicinity.
The climber, who had been camping on a hanging glacier at an altitude of nearly 4,000 metres, quickly retreated partway down the mountain to more stable terrain.
"She was completely terrified," her boyfriend, Camilo Rada, told CTV News. "She felt like the whole thing was going to collapse."
Unfortunately, she has been trapped at that location ever since by a serious storm that hit the area.
Icefield Discovery, the air touring company that dropped her off on the mountain, said Martinez is on a technical route that requires crampons and axes, and Monday's quakes left much of her surrounding area unstable.
"She's on a knife edge ridge," said operations manager Sian Williams, who is also a friend of the climber’s. "She's in a safe area where she is right now, but to move up or down would be quite dangerous for her at this time."
Parks Canada is coordinating a possible helicopter rescue, but that will have to wait until the weather clears, which is expected to take a few more days.
Williams said people usually attempt Mount Logan, which is the second-highest peak in North America after Alaska's Denali, in groups, but some do head up alone.
Fortunately, both Williams and Rada believe Martinez is well-equipped to take care of herself. She's been in the area before on scientific expeditions, and has a good supply of food and fuel.
Her partner, who is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, said she was born in the foothills of Argentina's Aconcagua, the highest peak in the western and southern hemispheres, and likely the deadliest in South America.
She worked on the mountain doing everything from managing base camp to guiding people to the summit, Rada said, and has roughly 15 years' climbing experience altogether.
Even so, Rada is still very anxious for her to be brought to safety.
"I am very confident of her skills, but unexpected things happen – that earthquake is proof of that," he said. "So I am worried and I will be worried until she's back safe."
Mount Logan is 5,959 metres high, according to Parks Canada, and is attempted by an average of 25 climbers per year, all of whom must register prior to beginning their trip in Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Because of the heightened risk of high-altitude rescue, the agency said all climbers on the mountain must expect potential delays during emergencies.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim