A BC Highways Perspective of the Hope Slide

Aerial view of the Hope Slide looking westward, January 1965
Aerial view of the Hope Slide looking westward, January 1965

It was the largest known landslide in Canadian history.

The Hope Slide forever changed the landscape of the Nicolum Valley in the Cascade Mountain Range, tragically taking the lives of four motorists who were on BC Highway 3 at the time.

We recently discovered a series of images documenting the incident itself, as well as search and rescue and reconstruction efforts following the slide. As far as we know, only one or two of these images have ever been shown to the public before now.

View the complete set of images on Flickr

Helicopter pilots flew supplies and materials in and out of the debris field in the days immediately following the slide.
Helicopter pilots flew supplies and materials in and out of the debris field in the days immediately following the slide.

A Timeline of the Slide Event

In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 9th, 1965, a snow avalanche blocked the Hope-Princeton Highway, in the Nicolum Valley, just outside of Hope. A queue of motorists on the Princeton side of the avalanche began to collect. Some of them chose to turn around and head back up the mountain, while others chose to wait for crews to clear the slide.

At approximately 7 am, a devastating rock slide occurred at the same location, when half of Johnson Peak collapsed and descended into the valley below. The slide filled the valley bottom with more than 47 million cubic metres of rock, mud, and debris – up to 500 ft deep in some locations. Outram Lake, which had been at the foot of the slide area, was completely displaced. The slide buried a car that had become stuck in the first slide, an oil tanker truck, and a loaded hay truck which had stopped behind the tanker.

The slide destroyed nearly three kilometres of Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton Highway, a vital connection between the Southern Interior and the South Coast regions of BC.
The slide destroyed nearly three kilometres of Highway 3,  a vital connection between the Southern Interior and the South Coast regions of BC. This image is taken from the Princeton side of the slide, looking west toward Hope.
Search and rescue workers, BC RCMP, volunteers and local Highways Department staff combed the site for days to recover victims of the slide.
Search and rescue workers, BC RCMP, volunteers and local Highways Department staff combed the site for days to recover victims of the slide.
Former British Columbia Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi (above with search and rescue canine), attended the scene to help assist with search and rescue efforts and to help direct the construction of a temporary road over the southern portion of the slide.
Former British Columbia Minister of Highways, Phil Gaglardi (above with search and rescue canine) attended the scene to help assist with search and rescue efforts and to help direct the construction of a temporary road over the southern portion of the slide.
Search and rescue workers at the slide site study a recovered object.
Search and rescue workers at the slide site study a recovered object.

Finally, with the assistance of a search dog, crews were able to recover the bodies of Thomas Starchuck, the driver of the hay truck and Bernie Lloyd Beck, the driver of the convertible. The two other victims of the slide, Dennis George Arlitt and Mary Kalmakoff, were never recovered.

BC RCMP attend the scene of the Hope Slide during recovery.
BC RCMP attend the scene of the Hope Slide during recovery.
A line of cars parked along BC Highway 3 at the western edge of the slide site and the vast scope of the debris field is revealed.
A line of cars parked along BC Highway 3 at the western edge of the slide site and the vast scope of the debris field is revealed.
Staff use snow on the hood of a truck to draw plans during recovery.
Staff use snow on the hood of a truck to draw up plans during recovery.
Ministry staff drilling to clear a new route through the slide site on BC Highway 3.
Ministry staff drilling to clear a new route through the slide site on BC Highway 3.
Long time construction partner, Emil Anderson Construction lends machinery and manpower to help clear a new path through the debris field.
Long time partner, Emil Anderson Construction lends machinery and manpower to help clear a new path through the debris field.
Construction equipment and crews working to carve out a new route and re-open the highway.
Construction equipment and crews working to carve out a new route and re-open the highway.

Department of Highways crews worked tirelessly to re-establish the highway connection and in 13 days a drive-able route had been established over the slide.

Construction equipment and crews working to carve out a new route and re-open the highway.
Construction equipment and crews working to carve out a new route and re-open the highway.
Ministry staff at the slide site in the days after the event occurred.
Ministry staff at the slide site in the days after the event occurred.
A viewpoint entrance sign was erected to allow visitors to see the slide site after the road re-opened.
A viewpoint entrance sign was erected to allow visitors to see the slide site after the road re-opened.

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Do you have any questions about this, or anything else the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure does? Let us know in the comments below.

Page 1 of 59 comments on “A BC Highways Perspective of the Hope Slide”

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  1. I remember this well. I wrote the first news reports of the slide that morning. Working news at CHWK Radio in Chilliwack I arrived at 5:30 a.m. and began the regular police checks throughout the valley. Hope RCMP reported a slide and had sent a car to investigate. Shortly afterwards we learned that the entire mountain had come down. Later in the day then Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi gave us an interview and explained the plan provide a temporary route. It was a busy time providing voice reports and copy — large format reel to reel tape and typewriters.

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  2. Was there a pullin picnic spot on the mountain side that got covered with the slide. We were out for a family drive two weeks before the slide and stopped and had lunch at the picnic tables. We have always thought that is where we were and would like to get that settled in our minds. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hello Dianne – unfortunately, we cannot confirm if there was a picnic table/rest area at this location prior to the slide. We have not found any mention of it in our research, but perhaps other local folks who read this comment might be able to chime in?

      Reply
  3. There’s another photo, not shown here, that says ‘am RCMP officer using a metal detector’. It’s not and RCMP officer as the forage cap has no gold band and is the wrong shape. The photos here do show RCMP officers with the right forage cap plus also with the beaver fur hats.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this post and these photos!
    CBC News is interested in writing a story about them.
    Is someone available to talk about the discovery of the photos and the history of the slide?
    Thank you,
    Chad

    Reply
    • Hi Chad – thanks for connecting with us. We’d be happy to talk to you about the photos and the history of the slide. We will respond to you via email with those details.

      Reply