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Island man captures spring avalanche as temperatures warm

A Vancouver Island man had a once-in-a-lifetime experience while flying his drone in the backcountry, capturing an avalanche he says sounded deafening.

In a video posted to YouTube Thursday, the drone pilot – who goes by Mactac – captured the avalanche on Nahmint Mountain in between Port Alberni and Tofino.

He says he and his flying partner were out for a day of “mountain surfing,” which involves flying up and down mountains at high speed with drone goggles on.

While the pilot says he has flown that area many times, it is the first time he has ever seen an event like that and will not be something he will ever see again.

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“It’s one of my practice mountains because it’s not too far and I know the mountain well,” he said. “We were going to leave a bit earlier in the day, but my flying partner flew my drone out and crashed in the trees just beyond our take off area.

“Because of that we wasted a whole bunch of time, it became quite a bit later and we had finished retrieving the drone. We were going to pack up and leave and I turned around and saw the snow coming down from the top of the mountain.”

As quick as he could, the pilot got his drone together and its GoPro recording and began flying up the mountain to capture the moment. The video shows water pouring off the mountain and its cliffs in a similar way to water.

“It was unreal, and it was so mesmerizing. When I was going up and the snow was coming down, I kept finding myself watching the snow and forgetting to concentrate on flying,” he said.

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“Even from over a kilometre away, the sound was huge. It sounded like it was almost on top of us.”

He added he kept asking his flight partner if they were safe, because with the goggles on he could not tell where the snow was.

In a Facebook post, the BC Search and Rescue Association says the video captures the dangers of spring avalanches. According to Avalanche Canada, the avalanche risk is “considerable” right now as cornices become more prone to failure as temperatures warm up and advise you to avoid those areas.

As for the drone pilot, he says he was lucky to be in the area to film the moment.

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“I’ve flown glaciers, I’ve been up in the Rocky Mountains and the mountains there are bigger and more rugged looking, but I’ve never seen an avalanche like that.”

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