When a hiker who'd fallen behind five of his friends on Vancouver's Mount Harvey got to the summit on Saturday, he expected to find them waiting for him. But in a horrific ending to his climb, he instead found another hiker not with his group, who told him, "I'm sorry, I think your friends have fallen," the National Post reports. That hiker's haunting words turned out to be accurate, and before noon on Sunday, four bodies were found at the foot of the British Columbia mountain, the Vancouver Sun reports; a fifth body was found later in the day. The hikers were believed to have been part of two local hiking groups: the Vancouver Korean Hiking Club and the MJM Hiking Club. "This is not the outcome which we had hoped for," says a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The hikers are believed to have fallen more than 1,600 feet. At the summit, they apparently stepped on a cornice, a mass of hardened snow that hangs over the edge, which broke off and sent them plummeting. Alastair Ferries, the hiker who broke the news to the sixth member of the party, had a feeling that was what happened when he found a pair of snowshoes, then tracks from the group's members that went straight over the side once he reached the top. An Avalanche Canada warning services manager tells the CBC that failures of cornices, which are difficult to see, are common at this time of year and that people shouldn't be lulled by the warm spring weather at the bottom of Mount Harvey. "We still have a pretty wintry snowpack up ... in the mountains," he says. (A terrifying fall on a mountain, then a "primal scream.")