Incidents

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2011 Season

Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzen drove from the Lake Tahoe area Monday April 25 and camped at the Red Lake trailhead south of Big Pine, CA. They told a Tahoe friend they planned to do a one day ski descent of either the Split Mountain East Couloir or the St. Jean Couloirs and return to their truck by around 1600 on Tuesday.  

When the party failed to contact friends with the details of their day, on Wednesday, one of the party’s Tahoe friends called a local skier who drove to the Red Lake trailhead on Wednesday and found their trucked parked at the trailhead with Allison’s dog Dolce tied to the pickup. After receiving notification that the party was overdue,  an Inyo County sheriff arrived at the Red’s Lake trailhead later that day and noted a recent large point release avalanche on Cardinal Mountain on a NE to ENE aspect, aspects similar to the aspect of the East Couloir. The sheriff then requested all volunteers meet at the Sheriff’s posse hut at 0700 Thursday morning. 
 

The next morning, Inyo County SAR provided volunteers with radios and the group and members of the Inyo County SAR left for the Red Lake trailhead. At 1145, volunteers found Garre deceased,  partially buried lying near the end of the debris from a large avalanche at an elevation of 11,266 ft.  Kreutchen was deceased and  partially buried at 12,110 ft. 
 

On Friday, the helicopter mission to retrieve the bodies was called off due to high winds.  The helicopter was able to land near Red’s Lake on Saturday, April 30 2011 and retrieve the remains.  
 

On Wednesday, April 27, two climbers ascended Split Mountain via the North Ridge and one took pictures of a slab avalanche at the top of the East Couloir. His photograph is included in the Image Gallery. The photographer requests that he remain anonymous. While it is not certain the skiers triggered the avalanche, they were likely caught near the top of the East Couloir at 13,850 ft and carried down the length of the couloir. 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 Season

There were no documented incidents this year.

2009 Season

There were no documented incidents this year.

2008 Season

There were no documented incidents this year.

2007 Season

There were no documented incidents this year.

2006 Season

 

Date:         March 18, 2006 : 
Location:  Chute Out, Ellery Bowl, Tioga Pass: 
Incident:   1 triggered cornice break, 1 caught.

A lone skier fell into Chute Out at Ellery Bowl on Saturday, March 18th after breaking a cornice. He suffered extensive injuries, but is recovering. The complete incident report is available here.
 

Date:         February 1, 2006 : 
Location:  Mt. Walt, Blacksmith Creek, Bridgeport 
Incident:   1 triggered, 3 caught, 1 fatality

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, 2006, three off-duty Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrollers, CJ Pearson, Johanna Carlsson and Joshua Feinberg, left the Twin Lakes trailhead around 7am with their destination being Mt. Walt. Mt. Walt is accessed from the Blacksmith Creek drainage, which is west of Twin Lakes in the Bridgeport area.

After an inital climb through heavily timbered northern slopes, the skiers reached an open area that began at approximately 8,600'. At this point they began switch-backing up a 35 degree east-facing slope. The slope angle gradually increased as they entered a stand of scattered whitebark pine. This area presented tricky skinning conditions due to an icy surface crust and complex terrain. Near the top of the whitebark pine glade, the group stopped to assess their route across a shallow wind-loaded gulley. It was necessary to cross the gulley in order to attain safe terrain on the ridge. This gulley was approximately 125' across and the decision was made to cross the slope one at a time from what seemed to be a safe location in the trees. At this location the slope angle was approximately 40 degrees.

Josh, the first skier, used two small trees in the gulley as kick-turn anchors and gained approximately 15 more vertical feet before beginning his final traverse toward a break in the slope angle on the ridge. Josh was about 5 to 6 ski lengths from the ridge when he triggered a small slab avalanche (4" crown) and was carried downhill a short distance - approximately 20'. At this point, a deeper (18" crown) slab avalanche released and propagated approximately 400 linear feet along the lee side of the ridgeline above and below them.

All three skiers were caught in the slide. CJ managed to hold on to a tree while the avalanche flowed past him. Josh was swept downslope approximately 800 vertical feet through the throat of the gulley and onto the slope below. Josh was partially buried in the main portion of the debris with his head approximately 10" below the snow surface and the edge of his pack at the snow surface. Johanna was swept approximately 600 vertical feet through the whitebark pine glade, onto the open slope on a separate lobe of avalanche debris. Johanna came to rest on the snow surface and was not buried.

CJ began a beacon search for Josh and Johanna, initially picking up a weak signal that led him to the southern lobe of the avalanche debris. At this point, he picked up a stronger signal and could see Johanna on the surface below. He skied to her and assessed her condition, finding her semi-conscious. CJ turned off her beacon and continued the search for Josh. He followed Josh's signal and saw the edge of his pack exposed near the toe of the northern lobe of the debris. He uncovered Josh's head and upon clearing his airway, Josh began breathing again. He finished digging Josh out of the debris, at which time Josh's condition seemed to be improving.

CJ returned to Johanna's location, re-assessed her condition and then moved her down and across the slope to a safer location. At this point, CJ left Josh with Johanna and went to get help. A rescue involving Mono County Search and Rescue, Mono County Sheriff Office and a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter took place over the next 4 to 5 hours. Johanna was flown to Fresno. CJ and Josh hiked out under their own power with Search and Rescue personnel.
The avalanche released on northeast to northwest aspects at 9,600 ft. Doug Chabot and myself returned to the scene the following day. The crown was not visible due to wind loading in the shallow gully. The avalanche ran 1,600' long, 900' vertical and was 50' across at the toe of the avalanche where there was between 8' and 10' of debris.

The slope failed on a 2 cm wind crust of knife hardness. Total depth was 215 cm.

There is an MPEG movie that was shot by Doug Chabot at the scene of the accident the following day that helps to show the terrain a bit better as well. We will put that online ASAP. (The file is 19mb).

The photos of this incident will also be placed back in the Gallery soon.

 

Date:         March 18, 2006 : 
Location:  Chute Out, Ellery Bowl, Tioga Pass: 
Incident:   1 triggered cornice break, 1 caught.
 

General incident
December 17, 2005. Time: unknown. Place: Hammil Bowl
Number caught: 1 in two separate incidents
Number buried: none
Number killed and injured: none
Narrative: For a complete narrative, click here.

Avalanche
Snow conditions: from narrative and personal observations of wind redistribution of snow from southwest winds, the slope was getting windloaded. The wind deposited snow was falling on three or four inches of recrystallized snow from the Dec. 8 storm.
Crown depth: Avalanche #1: 6 inches. Avalanche #2: 10 inches
Slab width/length: Avalanche #1: 50 ft width. Avalanche #2: 50 ft.
Avalanche Type (HS, SS, WS, etc.). Probably soft slab
Starting Zone (Slope, Aspect, Elevation): 20-25 degrees. N to NE aspect. 10,200 to 10,400 ft.
Path length: Avalanche 1: 150 ft. Avalanche #2: 300-400 ft.
Path-relative class: not known
Trigger: human, for both avalanches
Ski cut?: Avalanche #1, no. Avalanche #2: triggered while skiing (riding).

 Group Dynamics
Familiar with terrain?: YES
Mixed gender group?: not known
Sense of commitment or reaching objective: Party retreated after first avalanche occurred.
Level of training within group: not known
Was there a leader?: not known
Pre-existing tracks?: Yes, visible in most places except where wind loading had covered tracks.
Rescue gear? Trained in its use?: not known
Any formal snow evaluation?: not known
Any “hasty” snow evaluation?: not known
Any discussion of conditions?: Not known

Danger Signs?
Recent new snow/SWE deposition?: Last storm was December 8 with 3-5 inches accumulation.
Wind loading?: YES
Avalanches visible on other slopes?: not known
Whoomphing, cracking, other signs of instability?: Yes
Avalanche advisory at the time?: Yes, the danger rating was low to moderate
Terrain trap?: no

 

2005 Season

Date:         May 23, 2005
Location:  Kidney Couloir, Mt. Dana 
Incident:   1 caught, swept over cliff; self-evacuation with concussion and internal injuries.

A fairly comprehensive personal account is online at:
http://www.telemarktalk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=8540%22%3ethis%3c/A

Date:         May 22, 2005
Location:  Black Mountain
Incident:   None caught but dozens of skiers in area during major release.

The slide ran at 11:15 AM, Sunday, 5/22/2005. According to local witness, 20-30 people had been skiing the bowl that morning, and an uptrack went through the path. The main crown is about 2 meters deep, 50 meters across. About an hour before the release a skier had traversed in the vicinity of the upper crown just below the ridgeline. That then broke as a natural release, ~1 meter deep and ran to the middle of the bowl where it triggered the larger crown. Debris at the bottom is at least 3 meters deep.

A pair of large avalanches occurred on Dunderberg Peak within the next couple of days. A large cornice collapsed behind Crystal Crag, and a natural slab measuring at least 3-4 meters deep, 100-200 meters wide and 100-200 meters long released to the ground near Mt. Baldwin under Pt. 11,899' filling the basin floor

 

Date:         May 10, 2005
Location:  Echo Col
Incident:   Guided party, 7 caught, 3 buried, no fatalities, self-rescue. A detailed set of accounts is online.

No more information is available for this incident.

 
Date:         March 26, 2005
Location:  Mt. Thor
Incident:   1 snowshoer caught and buried. Self Rescue.

More information online at http://www.mt-whitney.info/viewtopic.php?t=454

Date:         March 26, 2005
Location:  Elderberry Canyon Headwall, Mt. Tom
Incident:   5 caught in two slides. Two buried and killed.
 

ESAC Press Release

Inyo Register Article

Darby, MT Article

Will Crljenko Obituary

Date:         February 12, 2005
Location:  Bennetville Slopes, Tioga Pass
Incident:   2 skiers caught, 1 swept into trees, buried and rescued.

On the east-facing slope below the ghost town of Bennetville near Tioga Pass, approximately 10 people were in the group, immediately after 12-15 cm of new snow (5-6 inches). All had rescue gear. Between 5 and 7 skiers were traversing a 45 degree slope at the same time. One of them triggered the avalanche, at least a Class 3 soft slab with crown 1 meter deep and about 400 meters wide (1300 feet). Two skiers were caught and one of them was swept into the trees below and buried. Deposition was approximately 4 meters deep (13 feet). That person was found and recovered in about two minutes, apparently uninjured.

Date:         February ??, 2005
Location:  Dana Couloir, Mt. Dana
Incident:  

A party of unknown size attempted to ski the Dana Couloir. All had rescue gear, at least some had radios. They decided to ski the couloir two at a time. The first skier down triggered an avalanche of unknown dimensions and was carried down onto the fan below the chute and partially buried. Their partner skied down and dug them out. No other information is yet available.

Date:         January 11, 2005
Location:  Aspendell, CA
Incident:  

Slide runs naturally and closes South Fork Road. Avalauncher triggers slide in same path 2 days later.

Date:         January 10, 2005
Location:  Twin Lakes, Bridgeport
Incident:  

Mono County Sheriff snowcat and snowmobile caught; snowmobile taken into lake. No injuries.

Date:         January 5, 2005
Location:  1st Finger Chute, Sherwins, Mammoth Lakes
Incident:   1 snowboarder caught & carried. Two broken femurs.

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