One hiker is dead after being caught in an avalanche that swept across Runner Peak, a hiking trail just east of North Vancouver’s Mount Seymour Monday morning.
North Shore Rescue volunteers recovered the body of Surrey man Remigiusz Michalowski on Wednesday afternoon. He was 39.
Michalowski was descending the 13-kilometre trail with a friend when the snowpack shifted. His friend survived, and was found by rescuers clinging to a tree overlooking a cliff. But the avalanche carried Michalowski past the tree line, over the cliff, and down between 400 and 600 feet of “very steep terrain,” according to NSR team leader Mike Danks.
Citing the high avalanche risk, NSR called off the rescue attempt Monday night, resuming the search in more stable conditions Wednesday morning.
Searchers found Michalowski after several hours spent digging through avalanche debris.
“Sometimes these things just happen,” Danks said. “Even if he had his avalanche safety equipment with him, it would not have made a difference.”
Danks offered condolences to Michalowski’s friends and family.
The recovery operation was “a tough one” for NSR members, Danks said.
“People need to take into consideration the responders that are going to these calls … it’s not an easy thing to handle,” he said. “This is when we need to bring the team in closely and we need to monitor them and check in with them and make sure that they’re doing OK.”
Wednesday’s search involved two aircrafts, dog handlers from Whistler and North Vancouver RCMP as well as avalanche forecasters, said Danks, who thanked each agency.
While it’s possible no equipment would have saved Michalowski’s life, Danks reiterated his call for hikers to carry a transceiver, probe and shovel.
“You can’t wait for an organized rescue to come in for someone who’s been buried in an avalanche,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”