Mark Salesse swept away by Alberta avalanche on military training exercise

A missing climber in Banff National Park was on a winter training exercise with the Canadian military when he was swept away by an avalanche Thursday night, CBC News has confirmed.

The man has been identified as 44-year-old Mark Salesse by his family.

A military spokesperson said he is a Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue technician from 17 Wing in Winnipeg.

‘Being that search and rescue technicians are trained to operate in harsh conditions at least we are hopeful his chances … are fairly good.’– Capt. Bettina McCulloch-Drake

“Essentially they were practising their mountain-climbing skills.… The member was found to be missing after the avalanche occurred,” said Capt. Bettina McCulloch-Drake, a public affairs officer for 17 Wing Winnipeg.

The team is from the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, which McCulloch-Drake says has a small number of members.

“Of course they are hoping he will be found safe because it would be quite a blow to the unit if something bad happened,” she said.

McCulloch-Drake said Parks Canada is co-ordinating the search, but rescue crews can’t get to him because of the weather and the danger of more avalanches. 

Polar Circus ground search delayed

“We can only wait, but we are hoping our member will be found safe,” she said.

“Being that search and rescue technicians are trained to operate in harsh conditions at least we are hopeful his chances … are fairly good. But we can’t control the weather.”

An aerial search was conducted Friday, but there has been no sign of the climber, who disappeared while on the Polar Circus — a popular ice climbing route near the Weeping Wall area of the park. The search was called off for nightfall.

“What we are hoping to do when conditions allow is conduct avalanche control work on Polar Circus so that we can then send our visitor safety specialists in and they can conduct a ground search and then we should have more information,” said Tania Peters, a spokeswoman with Parks Canada.

But more bad weather is on the way. Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for the area.

“Heavy snow is expected to fall over higher terrain with a further 10 centimetres forecast by Saturday morning,” says the national weather agency on its website.

lost climber map

Officials say the missing man, who family has identified as Mark Salesse, was on a military training exercise with the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron based out of Winnipeg. (Google Maps)

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