Recovery at the Summit
SUMMIT OF ALL FEARS – Susan
Barnes and Daniel Pauzé at the summit of Mt. Caubvick August
11, 2003. Shortly after these photos were taken, a series of
tragic events would unfold taking the lives of both. The left
photo is a self-portrait with Susan on the left. The right
photo of Susan was taken by Daniel. These photos are from the
digital camera recovered by the rescue party a year after they
perished in the treacherous Torngat range.
The closure took exactly one year. For a long, cold and lonely
winter, the remains of outdoor adventurers Daniel Pauzé and
Susan Barnes lay trapped in their Torngat tomb, victims of an
August 2003 climbing accident.
This past August, two groups of searchers, one private, one
public resumed looking for the missing pair. Bad weather last
year hampered any attempts to find them.
In a superb piece of reporting and wonderful Web journalism,
Andrew Lavigne of Ottawa, a friend of the pair and a member of
the 18-person search team has put together a first rate Web
site on the Dan and Susan story.
His excellent, and lengthy, report which features full
stories, photos, maps and even GPS co-ordinates can be found
Tales from the Torngats. Andrew has kindly allowed us to
quote from his site as well as us two of his photos.
idea, as Andrew writes in the following story, began a couple
of months following the disappearance of the pair:
A memorial service was held in Brampton, Ontario in October
of 2003. As everyone searched for answers, the idea of a
privately-mounted search expedition took shape. This was
partly driven by the fact that the authorities appeared to
lack conviction regarding further searching. Both Jack Bennett
and Roland toyed with and started planning just such an
expedition, eventually combining their efforts into a single
venture. The expedition gradually took shape: an 18-member
team, all volunteers, led by Jack and Roland, would return to
the Torngats in August of 2004 to look for Sue and Dan. Also
among the searchers were the Colorado couple that had been the
last to see Dan and Sue alive.
There were no guarantees: everyone had to be prepared for the
possibility that not a trace of them would be found. There was
word of bad weather and unusually heavy snows this year, so
the team was prepared for the worst.
foot of Daniel Pauzé on the summit of Mt. Caubvick/Mt.
d'Iberville, taken by the climber as he and Susan Barnes
reached the peak on a stormy day in August 2003. This
photo was recovered from their camera.
hundreds of hours of planning, the private expedition was
ready to go. Leaving on August 3, 2004, the team received some
basic Search and Rescue training, then headed up to scour the
peak. The attack was multi-pronged: 9 team members would
approach and search from the north, and 9 from the south.
Teams were linked by satellite phone and radios to each other
and to Parks Canada, who, although not absolutely committed,
were still thinking of search the area again themselves. In
fact, RCMP had first authorized, then cancelled, then
re-authorized the Parks Canada team, such that it looked like
the private expedition would indeed be the first to search the
according to plan. What was reported as excessive snow cover
turned out to be false - there was little snow on the
mountain. On Saturday, August 7, the south team split up into
3 parties and simul-climbed the three southern approaches. The
most important and likely places to search were (a) the
location where the harness was found, (b) the summit, and (c)
the so-called "Koroc Step", a more difficult section along the
mostly likely ascent route Dan and Sue used.
mid-morning, the Koroc ridge search team was perhaps 45
minutes away from the first major point of interest, the Koroc
Step. Parks Canada finally managed to make it in, and with
their AS 350 helicopter, raced in to examine the upper
mountain and the Koroc step. It was there hovering above the
notch, that Dan was found, lying on his stomach, with one leg
crossed over the other. He was directly on the ridgecrest in
the step, partly in Quebec, and partly in Labrador.
The next day,
the search helicopter, scouring a section of cliffs of
interest near where Christophe picked up the climbing harness,
found Susan. She was found 150 feet down from the top of the
thousand-foot headwall of the Minaret Glacier. It appears that
both Dan and Sue succumbed to exposure. The Parks Canada
helicopter airlifted both Dan and Sue to Newfoundland, along
with Dan's pack, which carried their GPS, Camera and Video
Camera. What took weeks and weeks last year was over in less
than 24 hours of searching. The circumstances surrounding Sue
and Dan's last day were now much clearer. It appears, then,
that Dan and Sue successfully climbed the Koroc Ridge to the
very summit, where they left a short but powerful note:
“August 11, 2003 - Daniel Pauze and Susan Barnes, in a wicked
Roland Hanel, a member of the
rescue party sits by Dan's rope at the spot where his friend
died a year earlier and tries to come to some understanding of
what happened. The beautiful weather of 2004 was a startling
contrast to the conditions experienced a year earlier.
thereafter, descending the Koroc Ridge, something happened -
likely Dan was climbing back up the Koroc step when some part
of their rope system failed, causing Dan to be injured. Not
able to move, and in worsening weather, they both knew Sue had
to go for help. She couldn't take the most direct way down,
because that involved climbing the 30 foot step of rock that
their rope had just fallen off of. Instead she had to climb
back over the summit and over a different, almost as
treacherous knife-edged ridge of slippery, snow-dusted rock.
It would have
taken a lot of bravery and courage to do this by herself,
testimony to her determination and love for Dan. The fact that
Sue had not climbed much in her life, and certainly never in
such conditions ever before, makes it all the more amazing. At
the end of the knife-edged ridge, she reached the upper
football field of level ground, and left her harness behind on
the ground. From there she crossed the field and was looking
for some sort of way down when she either fell, was blown off
or downclimbed to the spot where she was found on the Minaret
The day after
Dan was found, Roland sat down on a boulder in the Koroc step
next to a water bottle that marked where Dan's body had lain
for exactly one year. The day was sunny, warm, and there was
not a breath of wind.
There was a
haunted and contemplative look in his eyes, as he tried to
make sense of what had happened here a year before to his best
friend, in the driving snow and fierce wind. Later, near the
cairn above the spot where Susan was found, Roland inched
forward on his stomach to the cliff's edge and surveyed the
ledge directly below, where Susan would have spent her last
moments alive. He lay there, still, for many minutes. Then,
after some quiet, gentle sobbing, Roland stood up, regained
his composure, and continued on down the mountain.
The cairn above the spot where
Susan was found.