‘A great tragedy:’ Bodies of 5 missing hikers recovered near Lions Bay, B.C.

I’ve heard of cornices before but didn’t really understand how they were dangerous. What a tragedy. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.


snow cornice

A cornice, pictured above, is an overhanging feature often seen on mountain ridges, formed by the buildup of snow from strong winds. The five hikers are believed to have been on such a cornice at the summit of Mount Harvey when it collapsed. (claude05alleva/Pixabay)

Avalanche Canada cornice danger diagram

This diagram from Avalanche Canada shows how cornices can be dangerous for hikers unaware of how they have formed. ‘I’ve actually at times gotten my probe out and probed the snow in front of me as I’m walking in really poor weather on ridge crests,’ says warning service manager Karl Klassen. (Avalanche Canada)

Cornice warning

The week before, a post on a popular hiking website warned people of the cornice at the top of the mountain, and that it would likely break off soon.

Lions Bay Search and Rescue manager Martin Colwell said cornices aren’t easy to see when hikers are on top of one.

Ferries agreed.

“Cornices are tricky. It’s not obvious how far they can stand out. You really have to be cautious,” he said.

“I’m not sure if I was cautious enough yesterday.”

Lions Bay Search and Rescue manager Martin Colwell

Lions Bay Search and Rescue manager, Martin Colwell, calls the five deaths, ‘a great tragedy.’ (Errol Richardson/CBC)

Karl Klassen, the warning service manager with Avalanche Canada says cornices are common at this time of year when there is high wind, warm temperatures and sticky snow.

“If you’re travelling on ridge crests you need to stay well away from the edge where the cornice forms, you want to stay on the windward side,” he said, adding that cornice failures are quite common.


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