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Calgary Woman Dies In Avalanche

An avalanche on Canada's highest mountain killed a Calgary woman and left her climbing partner searching for help for a week.

Jessie Aulik, 24, was climbing at about 2,900 metres when she was swept down the east ridge of Mount Logan in the Yukon on May 31, 2005.

Aulik, who had set a record as youngest person to scale the peak when she was 17, was climbing with Chris Davis, 34, from Fairbanks, Alaska.

The driving force behind Aulik's fervent desire to climb mountains was her wish to be closer to her father, who was killed by an avalanche when she was just two years old.

While her climbing partner managed to escape the slide, he didn't have a satellite phone to call rescue personnel, Yukon RCMP said.

The climber tried to find help for a week before he was spotted waving for assistance by a TransNorth helicopter pilot who was flying in the area on Monday afternoon. It took a day longer to recover Aulik's body.

At 24, Aulik had packed a lifetime of adventures into her brief years.

She was an honour student studying psychology and photojournalism at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and was already selling photographs professionally. Just weeks before her fatal trek in the Yukon, Aulik gushed to friends that Climbing magazine requested one of her stunning ice-climbing shots.

She travelled to France for the World Junior Sport Climbing championships in 1995, made headlines climbing Mount Logan, trekked through Australia surfing and bungee jumping, competed in the Canadian reality TV show Drifters: the Water Wars, and spent summers working as a wildland firefighter in Alaska's Denali National Park.

"She was a great individual, just full of energy, full of life, just everything going for her," said Canmore school friend Jessica Ollenberger.

"I think that she always made everybody think she was invincible, but at the same time, she said: 'I'm not going to live past 30,' " said Ollenberger. "She was doing so much and she figured it would happen on the mountain."

 

One Survives, One Dies in Avalanche
When Charlie Borgh went away to college, he left as a skinny, soccer-playing valedictorian.

A few years later, the Minneapolis and Iowa native had transformed himself into a muscled and talented climber, skilled enough that he joined the elite ranks of Mount Rainier's climbing rangers in his early 20s.

The mountains became the focus of his life — he exercised at least two hours every day with an eye toward them, and he planned his life to revolve around climbing, said his father, John.

"He was in love with climbing. He wanted climbing to be his life until he died," he said. His son's strength was coupled with gentleness, he said.

On April, at 26, Borgh was killed in an avalanche while he climbed high on the flank of Mount Deltaform in the Canadian Rockies.


He was drawn to the mountains by a sense of their purity, the physical pleasure, the challenge and the camaraderie, family members and a colleague said. He had worked as a volunteer climbing ranger at Mount Rainier.

Borgh's climbing companion in Canada, a friend from college, survived the accident.

The survivor, who Gord Irwin- manager for mountain safety programs in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks- describes as an "outstanding climber, very fit," spent three days and nights lying in the snow waiting for rescue with a broken right femur and a broken left leg, likely the tibia. As well, he suffered from dehydration, possibly a mild concussion, mild hypothermia and mild frostbite.

At one point, said Irwin, the surviving climber, fearing another avalanche, managed to drag himself 150 metres away from where he had been swept by the initial avalanche.

The two had been climbing in the Rockies for a couple of weeks and had left word with a friend that they were going to make a bivouac camp on Wednesday (April 19), followed by an alpine climb on the 20th. Unfortunately, they didn’t say where they would be climbing and their last known location was in the Columbia Icefields area.

On Sunday, the friend called Parks to alert them about the missing climbers, said Irwin. Parks personnel began a search of trailheads and found their vehicle near the closed Morraine Lake Road.

"Once their vehicle was located, we knew we’d have to do an aerial search,? said Irwin. “But we didn’t know which of several mountains they might be on. But with wardens’ knowledge, we confined our search to three mountains and found them quite quickly."

According to the survivor, the two had taken the Supercouloir route and made the Summit Ridge at about 3 p.m. on Thursday, according to plan, Irwin said. They then descended the southeast ridge, a knife-edge with cornices.

"They were forced onto a south-facing slope below the crest,? said Irwin. “About 15 metres from where they topped out, they started a small slab avalanche where snow was 15 to 25 centimetres thick. They were knocked over and carried along to where the snow was a metre thick and swept 3,100 feet, or close to a vertical kilometre, down the south face.?

The survivor and the deceased ended up about 200 metres away from each other, with the deceased partner above the survivor. The survivor, said Irwin, wouldn’t have been able to locate his partner due to “very, very rough avalanche debris."



Irwin suspects the dead climber suffered blunt trauma. Both climbers had their legs partially buried, but the survivor, despite broken legs, managed to free them and lie on the snow for the first two nights. At that point, he tried to drag himself away from further danger.

The climbers had done nothing wrong in planning their ascent and descent of Mt. Deltaform, Irwin said.

"The route was well within their capability, as was shown by their making a fairly quick ascent. But one of the challenges of alpine climbing is the huge change in snow conditions at different elevations and in changing aspects from north to south.

"It was a thin, dry slab avalanche at the top and it was a wet snow avalanche at the bottom. They were appropriately equipped for the climb, so what happened was extremely unfortunate. Technically, they were into the easier part of the climb.

"To survive the avalanche and fall and three nights and days before word was given was quite amazing."

The only flaw Irwin could see in the whole scenario was that the climbers should have left more precise route and location instructions with someone close to them. But, he said, between getting notice at 11:30 a.m. and finding the climbers at 3 p.m., only a few hours were lost in delay.