Memorial for search-and-rescue technician leads to touching discovery in Rockies

Click to play video: 'Memorial for search-and-rescue technician leads to touching discovery in Rockies' Memorial for search-and-rescue technician leads to touching discovery in Rockies
WATCH: Three of Mark Salesse's friends made the journey to honour his memory and they can’t believe what they came home with. Tracy Nagai reports – Sep 11, 2017

February will mark three years since 44-year-old Mark Salesse‘s tragic death.

The search-and-rescue technician from 17 Wing in Winnipeg was swept off a narrow ledge by an avalanche while on a military exercise on Alberta’s Cirrus Mountain in February 2015. He was buried under metres of snow and it took a week to recover his body.

“It’s the mountains — they’re a harsh mistress,” said Salesse’s longtime friend Doug Summers. “I got the text right away and I knew he was done.”

READ MORE: Recovery mission continues for missing ice climber; military to investigate

Summers said the Polar Circus ice climbing route had always been a challenge for Salesse — one he was determined to overcome.

“It was a religious thing for him, especially that one climb. Every time we drove by it, literally, we would have to pull over on the side of the road.”

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With winter just weeks away, his close friends knew they had to find a special way to honour Salesse.

“We were in the army a long time together, all of us. It’s like a friend who’s been away for a long time; he’s still in our hearts,” said Salesse’s friend Denis Byrne.

So on Saturday, Sept. 9, with a special plaque in hand, the trio set off for Cirrus Mountain.

Plaque in memory of search-and-rescue technician Mark Salesse. The plaque now sits at the bottom of Cirrus Mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Jason Budd

But close friend Jason Budd said it was what the group took away with them that day that meant the most.

Budd said after what felt like mere seconds following a group huddle and prayer, the sun broke through the clouds.

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“I wanted to go down the creek bed and there was this ice tool looking at me. It was one of the tools Mark climbed with — and they were never recovered.”

For the three men, the discovery was nothing short of emotional.

“To find a climber’s tool, especially one that Mark was using to climb there, is very significant,” Byrne said.

The friends plan to return to the mountain next year and hope others can learn from Salesse’s story and the search and rescue motto: “That Others May Live.”

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