Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Lacombe man survives avalanche, night trapped on a mountain

Lacombe’s Todd Wyatt is lucky to be alive.

Lacombe’s Todd Wyatt is lucky to be alive.

Wyatt was a part of group of eight skiers from Red Deer’s Parkland Ski Club who were backcountry skiing in Banff National Park when they were swept up in an avalanche last weekend.

“It was one of the most traumatic things you have gone through whether you were buried or not,” said Wyatt on Tuesday. “It was not fun.”

Wyatt remembers every detail of the horrifying experience.

It was around 4:45 p.m. on Feb.12 when the skiers, who were scattered, were coming out of the valley on its way to the Alpine Club of Canada’s Bow Hut near Lake Louise.

“I heard what sounded like a gunshot,” said Wyatt. “It was a just a loud crack. I looked up and I saw the snow drop. The snow dropped and I just thought this is not happening. Time just stopped for a second. I was right in the line of fire. I tried to turn my skis and try to get turned around to get a bit of a turn. It was on me before I even had a chance to move. I got maybe two steps.”

Wyatt said it dropped from underneath him and took his right leg and swept it from underneath as the snow bowed him over.

Wyatt screamed as he fell because he knew his leg had just “snapped.”

“I yelled as I fell into the snow,” said Wyatt. “I had snow rammed down my throat and down my mouth. I coughed up and spit out all the snow.”

He said the slide continued and he went over a cliff.

“As the slide continued down, it started to slow down,” said Wyatt. “Right when it started to slow I got lifted up from the bottom. I remember just being pushed up. Things got brighter and brighter above me. I was on my back so I could see clearly and got more and more light. At the last minute as things came to a stop, I took a deep breath to try and expand my lungs because I knew it was compressing me and I wanted to make sure I had room to move my chest so I could breathe. As I took that last breath I pushed my right hand in front of me and miraculously I was on the surface.”

Wyatt said he had not choice but to stay calm and focused to stay alive. He has about 20 years of backcountry skiing experience and has taken avalanche training courses.

“You had to keep your head,” he said. “You are at the mercy of the snow. You had no choice. It was go with the flow or fight it and run out of oxygen.”

Once he stopped, he used his hand to signal for help.

His tour leader skied down and dug him out of the snow. Soon he learned there were two others that were buried. Wyatt said he was the worst off between the three of them. The other skiers used beacons to locate the buried skiers.

The group used a satellite phone to contact Parks Canada.

Because of the fading light, the group was forced to spend the night, about 13 or 14 hours, on the mountain in sleeping bags until daylight for a rescue helicopter around 8:30 a.m.

“We just got through the night,” said Wyatt. “It was a long, long night with no sleep. It was uncomfortable night physically and emotionally.”

Help arrived the next morning.

“They put slings under my arms and two of them dragged me with skis on and the other person walked beside me holding up the sleeping bag and dragged me a long way out,” said Wyatt.

He spent two nights in the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital and underwent surgery to fix his leg and ankle.

Now resting home in Lacombe, Wyatt said this has definitely changed his perspective on where he skis and the type of skiing.

“I don’t think everybody in the group has processed the human element of it and how close we were to losing people,” said Wyatt. “I think we are going to deal with our physical injuries. I think it will be hard on the group psychologically because that kind of trauma can trigger all kinds of stuff. You might not feel it until the next time you go up.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Red Deer policeman told woman she had a ‘nice body,’ sex assault trial hears

RCMP officer on trial for sexual assault with a weapon and breach of trust

Source of gasoline smell in north Red Deer still unknown

City staff continue to work with industrial company

Some central Alberta businesses pledge to pay youth $15 ahead of wage cut that kicks in Wednesday

Jo(e) Social Media Inc. and Kavaccino’s pledge to pay youth more than $13 an hour

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques returns to Earth, sets Canadian space record

LONGUEUIL, Que. — David Saint-Jacques returned to Earth on Monday after more… Continue reading

Online shopping leads to mountains of boxes

As online shopping becomes ubiquitous, so do the boxes delivered to homes… Continue reading

Get tested for HIV on Thursday

Red Deer residents can take part in the second annual national HIV… Continue reading

Skinny Vancouver Whitecaps eager to pick up points on four-game road swing

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps know there’s work to be done as… Continue reading

World Cup exit shows Canada will miss the remarkable Christine Sinclair

PARIS — Christine Sinclair has put Canadian soccer on her shoulders for… Continue reading

Police release more than 1,000 files from Smollett probe

Chicago police on Monday released more than 1,000 files from the investigation… Continue reading

Tributes to Michael Jackson flow on 10th death anniversary

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s estate paid tribute to his artistry and… Continue reading

Alberta government, Opposition swap accusations, attacks in earplug debate

EDMONTON — Alberta’s earplug debate got louder Monday as the Opposition NDP… Continue reading

‘Clients fall off:’ Calgary program helps recently released prisoners with hep C

CALGARY — Imagine adjusting to life after serving prison time, then add… Continue reading

Most Read