Credits: TOM BRAID/EDMONTON SUN QMI AGENCY
Just before 1 p.m., emergency crews were called to the Heart Creek day use area about 80 km west of Calgary after a witness said two people had fallen from a sheer cliff.
Canmore RCMP Const. Jeff Jantz said the two had been rappelling off a steep rock face on the west side of Heart Mountain Creek when "there was an accident of some type."
Because the description of the location was fairly specific, an EMS staffer and a conservation officer were able to hike in about two kilometres to the scene, Stuart Brideaux of the Alberta Health Services EMS said.
They found a man and a woman, both believed to be in their early 20s, who had suffered "multiple traumatic injuries," he said.
Both were declared dead at the scene.
"They were climbing together -- they were a pair," Brideaux said.
The relationship between the two was not initially known, nor was their experience rappelling.
RCMP report the pair fell a total of 80 to 90 metres to the creek bed.
STARS Air Ambulance was called out from Calgary, but was stood down once the helicopter reached the Heart Creek area, spokesman Cam Heke said.
Peter Jull and his son were scrambling on Heart Mountain, directly south of the rock face where the two people fell, and witnessed the helicopter recovery operation.
"It was obvious there had been a mountain disaster," he said. "Unfortunately it was a recovery operation.
"It was a pretty sad afternoon -- it's a tragedy."
Kananaskis Emergency Services, which brought in a helicopter for the recovery, will be investigating, Jantz said.
"It'll have to be how the ropes were tied on for rappelling, how the harnesses were connected," he said.
"They'll have to investigate the ropes -- all those will have to be done."
Jantz estimate as many as 300 hikers use the area on a weekend day.
He estimated there is about one falling incident in the Bow Valley each weekend, though they vary in severity.
The names of the deceased were being not released pending notification of next of kin.
-- with files by Mike Drew