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Search for climbers missing in Canada's Garibaldi Park near Whistler stymied by weather, avalanche threat

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Toronto — A search and rescue operation was still underway Monday morning three days after a trio of mountaineers failed to return from their climbing expedition in Garibaldi Park, near the city of Squamish, British Columbia, in southwest Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia said the climbers were expected to return on Friday but have not been heard from nor spotted by search teams working in challenging conditions.

The RCMP said in a Sunday afternoon statement that police and search and rescue teams had been attempting to locate the climbers, but that the efforts were being "hampered by inclement weather conditions" and "extreme avalanche conditions" which the crews were trying to navigate.

According to Squamish Search and Rescue officials, the climbers are all highly experienced mountaineers, but they were operating in extremely challenging terrain in Garibaldi Park, which sits just south of Canada's famous Whistler mountain resort.

Mount Garibaldi during a dramatic sunset
Mount Garibaldi towers high over Squamish as the sun sets in British Columbia, in a 2021 file photo. ALEX RATSON ARATSON@ME.COM/Getty

"We're talking about climbing with ropes, ice axes, crampons — that type of thing. We're not talking about people who went out for a leisurely walk," SSR manager BJ Chute told Canada's national broadcaster CBC. "This is serious, serious mountaineering."

CBC News reported that SSAR rescue teams had tried to locate the climbers using drones, and Canada's military also help to the search effort, but none of the attempts were able to surmount the adverse conditions.

Searches launched from the North Shore and Whistler resort areas, two of the region's most prominent tourism destinations, also failed.

"All of those efforts were deemed unsafe and ultimately grounded," Chute told the CBC.

Communication in the rugged area is usually challenging, even with satellite phones, and Chute said the lack of contact with the climbers wasn't necessarily indicative of a bad outcome.

Rescue teams were on standby Monday, poised to resume efforts as soon as weather conditions improved enough for them to do so safely, the CBC said, but it was clear the climbers could still have to wait a while for rescue.

"If the weather continues like it is, which is what we are forecasting, then we're unfortunately not going to be able to get into that area," Chute told CBC.

Forecasts showed more heavy rains and gusty winds expected in the region through at least Tuesday morning.

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