Search for hiker swept away by avalanche delayed by bad weather
The family of a hiker believed to have been swept away by an avalanche in the B.C. backcountry Monday is holding out hope he is still alive as unfavourable weather leaves rescuers unable to search for him.
A low cloud ceiling over the area located near Seymour prevented rescuers from reaching the area by helicopter Tuesday. It's not safe for crews to attempt to reach the remote area between Runner Peak and Mount Elsay on foot with 10 centimetres of snow in the forecast.
The man's mother identified him as 39-year-old Remi Michalowski, from Surrey. He's an engineering student, and when he's not hiking, the experienced outdoorsmen is up in the mountains, his family said.
Michalowski's mother and sister were on scene Tuesday meeting with teams leaders from North Shore Rescue.
"I understand they have their protocol. But those are mountains. On the mountains, there is always snow or fog," Lidia Majerski, Michalowski's mother, told CTV Vancouver.
Michalowski's sister, Peata, echoed those sentiments: "We thought this is what they were trained for, to go out there in the snow."
But after meeting with a team leader, his family said they'd come to realize it is too dangerous, even for the most experienced of rescuers.
The area where the avalanche hit Michalowski and his friend is remote and challenging. It would require a very technical rescue even in ideal weather.
"We're doing everything we can but we need to operate safely. We cannot put our rescuers at risk," NSR team leader Mike Danks said Tuesday.
Calling it a difficult decision, Danks said the rescuers' hearts go out to Michalowski's family. He said they're hopeful the search will resume late Wednesday morning when a break in the clouds and snow is expected.
When the search resumes, crews will do avalanche control then head toward the area the missing snowshoer was last seen, aided by avalanche dogs. It is believed their mission is one of recovery and not rescue, as there have been no signs of Michalowski.
He does not have an avalanche beacon, making the search difficult.
Even before the snow started, the area was considered too dangerous due to risk of avalanche and hanging snow.
The search began Monday morning when rescuers received a distress call from a man who'd been snowshoeing with a friend. The pair had camped overnight and were planning to return home that morning when they were hit by an avalanche.
One of the men was able to save himself, grabbing on to a tree in a wooded area next to a clearing. Michalowski was swept away, and his whereabouts remain unknown.
NSR was able to reach the first man by helicopter Monday afternoon, lifting him to safety by long-line.
The 30-year-old was uninjured, and thankful to his rescuers.
"Everybody here killed it. They kept in correspondence with me," he told CTV News before heading home to be with family.
"They're still looking for him so I don't want to say too much because we're still holding out hope that everybody's going to be OK."
The rescue serves as a reminder that anyone heading into backcountry should be prepared, and should check conditions on Avalanche Canada's website before going uphill.
Danks also reminded the public of the importance of having an avalanche beacon and safety equipment. The two hikers had proper equipment for backcountry camping, including a satellite device so they could call for help, but they were not equipped for an avalanche and it is unclear whether they had avalanche training.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure