After 21 years buried under ice and snow at the foot of Alberta's Mount Snowdome, the body of American William Holland was found this month perfectly preserved in his full climbing gear, spiked boots on his feet and rope slung over his shoulder.
On April 3, 1989, Holland was climbing a frozen waterfall on the mountain's northern face -- a treacherous kilometre of ice known as slipstream. The route is plagued by avalanches of snow and ice, and climbers must cross dangerous glacial terrain pockmarked by deep crevices just to reach its base.
Two parties set up the mountain early that day. A local pair from Jasper, Alta., headed up first, with Holland and his partner, Chris Dube, following shortly after. The climb up was uneventful, with both teams safely reaching the summit by mid-afternoon. Visibility at the top was poor, and thick clouds and howling winds made for whiteout conditions.
Holland walked out onto a hardened lip of snow hanging over the cliff's edge to search for a safe route down, prodding the ground with a ski pole and his coil of rope at the ready for quick deployment. As he neared the edge, the ground gave way, and Holland disappeared over the side. The violent weather punished the other three climbers on the descent, battering them against the ice and dislocating one climber's shoulders.
Attempts to recover the fallen climber's body were held at bay by deteriorating weather and winter storms. At one point a search-and-rescue team combed the waterfall's base with a rescue dog, only to return the next day to find the area had been obliterated by a huge ice fall. After a week of searching, the extreme hazards posed by the mountain brought an end to attempts to recover the body.
"This was a well-prepared mountainist, and he was by all means up to the task of the climb,"