Ranjit Sidhu, 31, and his 25-year-old climbing partner were rappelling down a steep wall on the west side of Heart Mountain Creek when something caused the pair to tumble nearly 100 metres to the ground.
Climbing gear found strewn across the ground and a photo of the two climbers taken moments before their death led Kananaskis investigators to conclude the climbers suffered a sudden accident shortly before 1 p.m. as they made their way down the rock face.
Bal Ravi Sull, Sidhu’s older sister, told friends on Facebook that the family “was hoping against hope” that the climber reported dead in the news wasn’t her brother.
“Our hearts are broken knowing that you are never coming home,” Sull told friends.
The kinesiology graduate was a conscientious climber, according to friends.
“He would have been very safety conscious with his climbing. I’ve seen that in other things he does,” said Martin Hoare, a friend and wheelchair basketball teammate of Sidhu.
Hoare said his longtime friend was a talented athlete who played for Alberta on a provincial wheelchair basketball squad.
“He had a big heart. He was very passionate about life. The kind of guy who would do anything for you,” Hoare said. “He’ll be missed.”
Investigators said they are piecing together the final moments of the two Calgary climbers.
Sidhu and his female climbing partner — whose name has not been released — had just completed a climb of 150 to 180 metres and were preparing to rappel back to the ground.
Using a technique that climbers call “simul-rappelling,” the pair were descending using a rope threaded through a single anchor, each climber acting as a counterweight to the other.
“One person managed to come off the rope during the rappel,” said Kananaskis public safety specialist Mike Koppang.
With no counterweight on the line, there was nothing to keep the rope anchored.
“The rope ran through the anchor and the second person fell.”
Within 15 minutes, the first emergency responders were on the scene.
EMS crews said it was evident both climbers had sustained multiple traumatic injuries in the fall.
Police confirmed Monday that Sidhu was one of the climbers who perished, along with a 25-year-old woman.
The pair were friends and co-workers.
“Really it’s a tragic accident. There was no foul play,” said staff Sgt. Brad Freer with the Canmore RCMP.
Lawrence White, executive director of the Alpine Club of Canada, said accidents such as these “ripple” through the climbing community.
“The climbing community is a tight community. Many climbers will know these people or know people who know them.”
This is the second significant Kananaskis rappelling accident in recent days.
On July 24, a climber who “misrigged” equipment fell 20 metres to the ground at Wasootch Creek, off Highway 40, just south of the Trans-Canada. The climber sustained significant injuries and remains in hospital.