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Calgary man survives 30-metre fall into glacier in Jasper National Park

The Canadian flag flies over the Athabasca Glacier part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park.
The Canadian flag flies over the Athabasca Glacier part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A Calgary man has survived a more than 30-metre fall into a glacier crevasse in the Columbia Icefield area of Jasper National Park.

Parks Canada says the 24-year-old was snowshoeing with a friend Sunday on the Athabasca Glacier when he fell deep into the ice and was knocked unconscious.

The pair were not wearing safety ropes or harnesses.

READ MORE: Alberta skier tells tale of surviving avalanche after woman was buried 4 metres deep near Lake Louise

As his friend went for help the man who fell managed to climb out of the crevasse on his own using crampons, but then fell into a second crevasse up to his armpits.

On his way back down the glacier he met up with a rescue team that was responding to his fall.

Parks Canada says he declined help and left the area.

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Peter Tucker with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides called the self-rescue an “amazing” story of survival.

“People fall into crevasses that are much shallower than 30 metres and have way more significant consequences than that. So this fellow is not only lucky but very tough,” Tucker said.

He said regardless of what you have on your feet, anytime you’re on a glacier, you should be prepared for the potential of falling into a crevasse.

“Even though you think you’re familiar with the area, the ice is always changing because it’s moving,” he said. “Even when there are no crevasses, and then the ice moves a little bit and the elevation drops and a crevasse opens up.

“It may have been reasonable to assume because there was a large snowpack that the crevasses were well bridged… but nevertheless, what we recommend is that you and your partner are roped together, wearing a harness and that you have ice sacks and crampons so you can get out of a crevasse.”

Outdoor enthusiast and Calgary Ski Club (CSC) president Lynn Bowers leads snowshoe ventures in Alberta. He said the fall was concerning, adding it should be a teaching moment about mountain safety.

“I’m concerned about how it happened and what can be learned from finding out those details… how did they get there?” he said.

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Bowers said before each venture, the group goes over a trip description of what snowshoers can expect as well as proper training and techniques in case of emergencies. He stresses that people need to be prepared in the elements. The group also never treks onto avalanche or glacial terrain.

Parks Canada is reminding all adventurers to play it safe and not venture on glaciated terrain unless everybody in the group has the proper training and equipment, and is “familiar with safe glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques.”

With files from Christa Dao.