Vancouver climber survived Squamish rockslide

Trio on rock face as 1,000 cubic metres of granite hurtled down Chief

Tomáš Sedlák was metres away, hanging on a rock face when the equivalent of 5,000 pickup trucks full of granite came crashing down the north face of the Stawamus Chief on Sunday, April 19. 

“It was like a big huge bomb exploded or something,” said Sedlák, a Vancouver climber who was with two friends just 10 metres from the slab of granite that broke loose and crashed to the ground.

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“It was a whole big rock and it also got some trees, so it was all falling to us," he said.

Sedlák had started the 13-part route on the actual plate that fell. He was on the third part of the route when the slide happened.

“On the first route, we already heard some rocks falling,” he said. Because he hadn’t climbed at that spot before, he assumed it was a normal event and was nothing to worry about. 

“We got to the third route and big rocks started falling,” he said.

“I saw that all that f**king thing was falling around on us — right on us — and I just started screaming to them to cover ourselves.” 

He said there was so much dust at first, he couldn’t see his climbing partners. 

As the dust started to dissipate, the friends called to each other to see if everyone was OK — they were. 

“We started just laughing because we survived it and it was really crazy,” he said.

He worried for the four climbers he had seen coming up behind him when the rock fell, so he called 911. He found out late Sunday that everyone had made it out safely. 

The group decided it was safest to finish the remaining 10 parts of the route rather than to go down. 

“We saw helicopters flying around us but we didn’t pay any attention, we just wanted to finish and go for a beer,” he said, with a laugh. “It was really crazy.”

They finished just about 6 p.m. and were met by Search and Rescue, who gave them a helicopter ride back down.  

The slide occurred at 11:46 a.m. April 19, 2015 and involved 1,000 cubic metres of granite hurtling to the ground below, according to RCMP Insp. Davis Wendell.

The area was too unstable for emergency personnel to go in on the ground so Squamish Search and Rescue (SAR) and RCMP personnel surveyed the scene from the air, Wendell said. 

SAR and the RCMP remained on site throughout the day to assess geotechnical hazards within the rockslide area, according to Wendell.

No one is believed to have been injured in the slide. The mountain was closed to all hikers and climbers for several hours but was reopened in all but the directly impacted areas by Monday.

In terms of rockfall and landslides in the area, the event on Sunday was quite small, according to Steve Quane, a geologist at Quest University.

Researchers have identified landslide deposits from Mount Garibaldi that are estimated to be up to three million cubic metres, he said. “The largest event happened between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. Albeit from a different location, that event was thought to be 3,000 times larger than the one that happened on Sunday,” he said.

As for Sedlák, he says he isn’t deterred from climbing in Squamish in the future.

“I will definitely climb something else in Squamish,” he said. 

All hiking trails on the Stawamus Chief have opened, but the climbing access trail to Angel’s Crest is closed until further notice.

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