Now out in front, Deal and Hinton started up left of the Infinite Spur, and when Tobin and Blanchard got there they headed more in line with where the route started. “When we saw them go into a drainage, we screamed and shouted at them,” Blanchard says from his home in Canmore, Alberta. “We thought, ‘Fuck, what are they doing? They’re going into the gun barrel.’ There were two to three layers of seracs above them. You’d have to hold a gun to my head for me to go in there.” Hinton remembers it differently. He recalls he and his partner meant to head that way but that Deal’s leads and anchor building were taking too long, thus extending the team’s exposure time.
Hinton defends their decision: “We chose this route knowing the dangers, having monitored numerous slab avalanches ripping down the same gully the previous afternoon from 1:00 p.m. [onward]. As the slab avalanches were being triggered in the afternoon, we planned to climb in the cold of night to reduce risk of slab or icefall collapse, and I set a safety deadline to be out of the rubbish gully by 11:00 the next morning. We failed to get out of the gully by [then].”
It was noon and conditions on the wall were heating up when a serac collapsed, causing a snow avalanche above Deal and Hinton who were now 800 feet up the wall.
Deal says, “I looked up and the whole sky above was white with this cloud that was coming at us fast.” He yelled down to his partner to take cover, then grabbed his own pack, throwing it over his head and leaning into the wall for cover. When the avalanche ended snow was everywhere: in their ears, mouth, down inside their onepiece suits. The falling debris had “pummeled us and we thought we had broken bones at first,” Deal says. After checking themselves for signs of trauma and finding only bruises, Deal brought up his partner and the two called it a day. They crawled into their bivy sacks and waited until dark before getting back to climbing.