A man is dead after falling off a mountain near Lac des Arcs on Sunday, according to police and paramedics.
On Monday night, the man’s family confirmed his identity to Global News, saying Gerald Connor Davison was from Edmonton.
The family declined to offer a statement and asked for privacy as it comes to terms with the tragic accident.
RCMP responded to Heart Mountain after the 21-year-old hiker fell 60 feet at around 1 p.m.
Police said he was with at least one other hiker.
Alberta Parks said it received multiple calls about the incident, to which the Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section, RCMP and EMS responded.
Mountain conditions, footwear are contributing factors
Jeremy Mackenzie, a public safety specialist with Alberta Parks, said his team accessed the site via helicopter, slinging two rescuers down to recover the man’s body.
Mackenzie said the man had been scrambling, a cross between mountain climbing and hiking — generally with more exposed terrain than on a hiking trail.
“Typically, scrambling is classified as lower-end climbing where most people that are experienced would not use a rope versus actual roped climbing,” he explained. “So scrambling is kind of difficult hiking but it can have additional hazards, it can have additional challenges such as route finding because it’s not going to be on a marked trail.”
Alberta Parks doesn’t know exactly what happened but surmised that the man fell from a ledge system.
“It does appear that they were off route, and the other probable contributing factor to the incident [on Sunday] is that the area had a fair amount of snow cover on the mountain,” Mackenzie said.
Mountain and trail conditions played a role, he explained.
“Even if you were on the normal scrambling route, it was quite snow-covered and quite icy and slippery,” he said.
“We believe that the party had lost their way and were potentially trying to get back on track but ended up choosing more difficult terrain to do so.”
Poor footwear may have also contributed to the fall.
“The individual didn’t have sort of a good quality hiking boot on,” Mackenzie said. “They were wearing a running shoe that was not appropriate for the conditions.”
WATCH (May 20, 2019): First responders believe a 21-year-old hiker may have been lost and trying to find his way back to a marked route when he fell to his death from Heart Mountain on Sunday. Cami Kepke reports.
Slippery, snowbound peaks
Mackenzie said his team faces anywhere from 300 to 350 calls per year.
Especially in the early season, people don’t anticipate that there’s going to be as much snow as there is high up in the mountains, he said.
“Even though the valleys are quite dry and in more of a hiking condition, most of the peaks and the scrambling routes and mountaineering routes will still have significant amounts of snow on them. So then that would increase the difficulty and seriousness of a lot of the objectives, especially around the Canmore area.”
Keep in mind that it’s not summer yet, he added.
“The peaks are still well snowbound for this time of year,” he said.
Mackenzie advised people to pay attention to shifting conditions.
“That might mean what is normally an easy hike is suddenly a more difficult objective and in some cases, would put certain routes into the realm of possibly even mountaineering, where you would require different tools,” he said.
“On Heart Mountain right now, it’s extremely slippery on a large amount of the route, including some knee-deep snow on the backside. So that’s not what your conditions are going to be like in July or August.”