words by Monashee Mulisha
On March 8th 2014 our community lost a father, a friend and so much more.
That day started like so many before. We hatched a plan based on the conditions. Today we would leave our skis behind and avoid the alpine. The forecast called for alpine cloud and low visibility; stability had been an issue throughout the region and varied greatly dependent on aspect and elevation. We had a pokey low angle route in mind that would take us on a tour through some trees and meadows.
After a final kit check, we left the cabin around 11am. It wasn’t long before we got off, pounded out trail and started banging through the trees. We briefly poked out into higher elevation and made note of some signs of instability. We decided that today would be a good day to go home early and began our route home. It was the last area of appreciable risk we would be entering before the trail began to mellow and meander again. The cut block was a few kilometers long and less than 500m high. One of the guys went out ahead of us; he cut across the slope and back while we observed from a distance. In the absence sound or motion, we began to make our way across. Most of the group had transited to a safe area however I managed to get stuck on a wind lip. As I was casually digging out, AJ looped back, he was a few meters above me, lookers left.
That’s when they yelled, AVALANCHE!
The slide remotely triggered, starting at the top of the cut block nearly half a kilometer away. For a brief second I thought it would be limited to the shallow gully. The slide quickly overtook AJ and myself, thankfully the rest of the group was positioned safely, allowing them to keep eyes on and begin the rescue.
I was found immediately, but the search for AJ proved difficult. The heavy snow broke an 80cm crown, all of which came down on top of him. Despite our best efforts and rapid assistance from Kingfisher Heliskiing, the 4.5 meters of snow was just too much for us to excavate in time.
Adrian John Cleary was originally from the island of Newfoundland. His parents had him involved in the local alpine and nordic scenes from an early age. As well introduced him to mountain biking - his true love. His influence on those around him was impossible to ignore. AJ’s energy was over the top, hence his nickname Turbo. His lust for life and perpetual stoke were like none other. He had a great sense of humour but was also fiercely competitive. Like many in the East, he dreamt of one day experiencing all that the West coast lifestyle offered. He made stops in Ottawa and Calgary, before settling in beautiful Vernon, British Columbia.
As a graduate of the Memorial University Center for Nursing Studies, AJ was trained and worked as a Critical Care Registered Nurse. He saved lives for a living, and was well respected professionally. Helping the sick and less fortunate brought balance and humility to AJ’s life. But come days off, it was time to shred and live life to the fullest!
In his absence the community has stepped up, rallying behind his beautiful wife and raising funds for their unborn child. His dedication and enthusiasm will never be forgotten, as countless community members join together in celebrating his life, remembering his accomplishments, and preserving his legacy. AJ Cleary embodies all that is the Monashee Mulisha: stoke, passion, and friendship. Help us help his family in this time of such sorrow and heartbreak.
Skevik Skis is donating a set of 2014/15 skis to kick off this fundraiser. A $20 donation can be made below for a chance to win Skevik Skis of your choice for next winter. You may donate/enter multiple times or can also donate to the FundRazr.com fund. Donations will be accepted from all over and shipping costs of skis will be covered by Skevik Skis within North America. Each donation will be entered into the Skevik Skis draw, which will be announced on May 30th, 2014. It's only $20 - enter below and help AJ's family.