Eight people caught in 9 different avalanches in Colorado in October

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November 5th, 2009

Story: CAIC

There were 8 incidents (people caught) and one close call reported to the CAIC in October. The 9 avalanches caught 10 people. Of those 10, 3 were partially buried with their faces above the snow, and 2 fully buried or their faces were covered by debris.

October 5, 2009. Mount Meeker, Rocky Mountain National Park

The first avalanche incident occurred on October 5th on Mt Meeker in Rocky Mountain National Park. A small slab broke loose about 6 inches deep and 40 feet across and took two climbers on a short ride. The avalanche ran on the first pitch of the Dream Weaver alpine climb, on the east side of the prominent north buttress of Mt Meeker. The first pitch ramps up to 50 degrees in some places. This route can see significant cross-loading deposit any fresh snow as slab at several areas along the route, though primarily at the first and last pitches.

October 11, 2009. Grizzly Peak, Independence Pass

A narrow escape occurred on October 11th on Grizzly Peak south of Independence Pass. Three skiers remotely triggered an avalanche in a steep, northerly facing couloir. The avalanche fractured about 40 feet below the second skier. It broke down to rocks and summer snow, taking out the two to three feet of recent snow. The crown was estimated at 45 degrees, and the avalanche ran from near the summit to the lake, about 1200 vertical feet.

October 17, 2009. Tyndall Glacier, Rocky Mountain National Park

An incident occurred on October 17th on the Tyndall Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park. A skier triggered a two foot deep, 200 foot wide avalanche that ran over 200 vertical feet. The skier took a ride and was not buried. Again, the slide took out all the recent snow drifted onto the permanent snowfield underneath. The slope angle at the crown was estimated at 35 degrees, and it was on an east-northeast aspect.

October 23, 2009. Jones Pass

An incident occurred on October 23rd near Jones Pass. A skier triggered an avalanche and was caught mid-slab. The crown was about 80 feet above him, 2 feet deep, and 50 feet wide. The skier was taken for a ride, avoided rocks and cliffs, and ended up with only his legs buried. The slope was above treeline with an east aspect, and the snowpack was highly variable. The party had noticed some cracking and one whumpf on the ascent.

October 25, 2009. Flattop Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park

There was a third incident was in Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday the 25th. The slide was skier triggered on Flattop Mountain on a run known locally as the Hourglass. The second skier down the couloir triggered the slide. It was on a north aspect around 12,200 feet. Initially the crown was 4 inches deep but stepped down another foot. Initially the shallow crown was about 100 feet wide but propagated to about 150 yards wide. The skier suffered a few bumps and bruises and some lost gear. Of note with this slide, there was no old summer snow field at the bed surface.

October 25, 2009. Loveland Pass

Another incident occurred on Sunday the 25th. A skier triggered a soft slab on a hard ice crust or possible summer snow field on an east aspect near 12,000 feet on Loveland Pass. The crown broke about 40 feet above the skier. The crown was about 20 feet below a corniced ridge, about 40 feet wide and 20 inches deep on a slope estimated between 35 and 40 degrees. There was very little debris, not enough to be buried by the slide after the skier rode and tumbled about 150 vertical feet.

October 25, 2009. Apache Peak, Indian Peaks

While ascending two skiers triggered and were caught in a large avalanche on Apache Peak on October 25. They had skied the line the previous day. Disappointed they had not skied from the summit, they planned to ascend farther and ski a longer run on the 25th. They ascended into the narrow, 40 to 45 degree couloir. They became nervous when they found an 18 inch deep hardslab with a icy crust. In between was a thin layer of facets. They triggered the avalanche at that point. The avalanche caught both and carried them about 1000 vertical feet. One skier was completely buried, the second buried with just a hand free (partially buried critical). The second skier was able to clear the snow from his face and dig himself out. Battered and exhausted, he began a beacon search once free. He quickly located his partner and cleared the snow from his face. Both sustained minor injuries and returned to the trailhead on their own.

October 27, 2009. Missouri Mountain

A party of hikers intended to summit Missouri Mountain. Worsening weather turned them back. They glissaded down a narrow couloir. As the couloir opened, one hiker triggered an avalanche. The hiker was caught and "rode it down for perhaps 300 feet. Luckily I was able to stay on the surface and never came close to getting buried, but it was scary nevertheless."

October 31, 2009. Bartlett Mountain, Fremont Pass

A party of three ascended the lower angle west aspect and north ridge of Bartlett Mountain. They dropped into a steep northeast to east facing couloir. The first skier was 2 to 3 turns down when the slope avalanched. The crown was 1 to 2 feet deep and only 15 feet wide at the top, but widened out to 75 feet part way down the couloir. There was an icy layer on the bed of the avalanche. Towards the bottom, the slide entrained deeper snow and left many exposed rocks. The skier was buried to his neck and injured. The other two were able to excavate their friend and call out on a cell phone. Flight For Life evacuated the injured skier.

Logan, 20091101

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