Storm traps climbers in Canyon area

Two Red Deer River cliff climbers experienced a daring rescue by Red Deer Emergency Services fire-medics during a driving rain storm compounded by high wind gusts late Monday afternoon.

Emergency Services firemedics take a woman still wearing a climbing harness from her rescue from a sandstone cliff overlooking the Red Deer River near Canyon Ski Hill to a waiting ambulance.

Emergency Services firemedics take a woman still wearing a climbing harness from her rescue from a sandstone cliff overlooking the Red Deer River near Canyon Ski Hill to a waiting ambulance.

Two Red Deer River cliff climbers experienced a daring rescue by Red Deer Emergency Services fire-medics during a driving rain storm compounded by high wind gusts late Monday afternoon.

A 26-year-old man and his 21-year-old female climbing partner became trapped on the limestone cliffs of the river area near the Canyon Ski Hill area about 4:30 p.m.

Emergency services Platoon Chief Randy Kidd said the Red Deer climbers had negotiated their way to the bottom of the 60-metre high cliffs near the entrance of the ski hill area when it started raining

The couple started climbing back up but the slippery slopes and high winds which accompanied the heavy rain forced them to halt.

Luckily, they had a cellphone to call 911, Kidd said.

A dozen fire-medics responded headed by the department’s high angle rescue squad.

They were soon joined by four rope technicians when it became apparent more than 40 metres of rope would be needed for the rescue.

Kidd said his men needed to use extreme caution so they themselves wouldn’t be stuck in the driving rain and winds which gusted an estimated 50-60 km/h at times.

The male, who was the first person rescued, gave the female some of his clothes because she was getting cold.

The male was transported to the road from the cliff area in a department pickup which was used to ferry men and equipment from the road to the cliff top.

The woman was pulled to safety about 15 minutes later.

They were trapped on the cliffs for more than 2 1/2 hours before being rescued.

Both were rescued when at least one fire-medic worked his way down to the them and attached a rope to be pulled up.

Kidd said neither climber was injured but both suffered from the cold.

The temperature when they were pulled up was about 7C compared with around 20C when they descended earlier in the day.

Kidd said the couple managed to climb about 20 metres back up the cliff before they couldn’t go any further.

Rescuers had to climb down about 40 metres to get to them.

Kidd said it’s important that people who go climbing or hiking anywhere get a good forecast on the weather.

“In this climate conditions can change very quickly as we saw today,” Kidd said.

Dave Martel, who is the new Canyon Ski area general manager, said the immediate landowner and Canyon have experience difficulties with trespassers in the cliff area.

Canyon owns the road leading into the area.

Martel said there have been incidents of trespassers on the cliffs as well as isolated hay bale fires and garbage being left around.

“It’s a big issue. Just look at today we had to have all those firefighters out here at taxpayer’s expense.”

He also said there’s worry about liability if someone gets injured or killed while trespassing on the steep banks.

The storm that blew through Red Deer and Central Alberta Monday afternoon dumped about two centimetres of rain.

The wind also knocked over a few trees felling two 30-cm in diameter trunks across the intersection of Flagstaff Close and Farrell Avenue around 4:45 p.m.

A tree also crashed across a power line in Delburne.

Several other reports of downed tree limbs were received across the city.

Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for Red Deer, Ponoka, Innisfail and Stettler Monday afternoon.

The agency says 50 to 70 mm of rains expected by Tuesday morning.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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