One dead, four rescued in Mount Moran avalanche

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From the National Park Service’s Morning Report:

One dead, four rescued in avalanche

May, 29, 2015

A team of rangers, emergency medical personnel, Teton County SAR team members and a contract helicopter rescued four backcountry ski mountaineers who were involved in an avalanche on the northeast face of Mount Moran at Grand TetonNational Park in Wyoming on Sunday.

753fa-logoLuke Lynch, 38, was killed in the avalanche and one of his companions, Stephen P. Adamson, Jr.,  42, sustained life-threatening injuries, prompting evacuation by helicopter. Two other companions – Brook Yeomans, 37, who suffered minor injuries, and Zahan Billimoria , 37, who escaped injury – were also evacuated via helicopter as continuing avalanche activity and a steady cycle of snow squalls across the Tetons made the multi-staged rescue operation more challenging.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a 911 transfer call from Teton County on Sunday and quickly contacted park rangers, who immediately began a coordinated rescue operation. Because of the remote location on Mount Moran and the report of multiple injured persons, rangers quickly staged at and responded from the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache, located at Lupine Meadows near the base of Teewinot Mountain. Rangers also summoned the Teton County SAR contract helicopter.

The four ski mountaineers were ascending the steep Sickle Couloir on Mount Moran when a shallow wet slough avalanche released from above. The snow slide swept three of the mountaineers downslope for approximately 500 feet over rock and ice covered terrain. Billimoria was able to move out of the heavier portion of the debris flow and was not caught in the slide. He quickly descended to his teammates, called 911, and began the difficult task of administering aid to his three companions.

Light snowfall on the slopes above continued to cause additional sloughs that repeatedly hit the group, requiring Billimoria to work desperately to move Adamson and Lynch to a safer location. Although injured, Yeomans was able to descend slowly downslope under his own power.

After a slight lull in the recurring snowstorms over the Teton peaks, the Teton County SAR helicopter was able to deliver several rescuers to the base of the couloir. A Teton County SAR member was short-hauled to the scene to aid in the evacuation of Adamson, who receiving emergency medical care by park rangers on site and getting package for airlift off the mountain.

Adamson and the Teton County SAR member were both short-hauled directly to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache where a team of medics and the park’s medical director, Dr. Will Smith, provided additional emergency care before Adamson was transported by park ambulance to the Jackson Hole Airport. Upon reaching the airport, Adamson was transferred to a fixed wing air ambulance that flew him to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The Teton County SAR helicopter subsequently returned to pick up the two other avalanche survivors and transport them out of the backcountry. Additional flights were made to bring out Lynch’s body, as well as the remaining park rangers and their rescue gear. All rescue personnel were safely out of the mountains.

Avalanche rescue at Grand Teton

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Below is the latest from the National Park Service on Sunday’s helicopter rescue following an avalanche at Grand Teton. According to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, the skier deployed an airbag and wasn’t buried but sustained significant injuries.

Backcountry Skier Caught & Injured in an Avalanche Gets Aerial Rescue
March 10, 2014

A skier was caught in an avalanche and seriously injured about 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9, in Grand Teton National Park’s backcountry. Greg Epstein, 43, from Wyoming, was preparing to descend one of the Air Force chutes within Granite Canyon with two companions at the time of the avalanche. Epstein was reportedly carried over 1,000 feet by the slide. No other members of the party were injured.

Just after 2 p.m., Teton County Sheriffs’ Office received a 911 call reporting the avalanche and injured skier. Shortly after, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified and Grand Teton National Park rangers began coordination of the rescue operation with Teton County Search and Rescue personnel. Jackson Hole Ski Patrol initially responded to the scene, stabilized Epstein, and transported him 300 to 400 feet down to the bottom of the chutes. A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter flew two park rangers to the area and Epstein was placed inside the ship with an attending park ranger and flown to the base of Teton Village and a waiting ambulance.

Due to the proximity of Granite Canyon to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole ski patrollers are often the first rescuers to respond to winter emergencies within the canyon. Ski patrol reached Epstein about an hour after the incident. They subsequently delivered him to the responding park rangers and rescue helicopter at 4:20 p.m. Epstein was transferred to a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming, for further care.

This was the second backcountry ski run of the day for Epstein and his companions. All three are expert skiers with extensive knowledge of backcountry skiing and avalanche danger. The ski party was well equipped for their plan and they were carrying all the appropriate safety gear, including avalanche beacons and probes.

The Air Force chutes are one of many popular backcountry ski areas accessible from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Rangers remind skiers and snowboarders who leave the resort boundary that neither their safety nor a rescue is guaranteed. Parties should be equipped with appropriate avalanche gear and know how to use it. Backcountry users should also carry extra food and water in the event they have to spend any unplanned nights the park’s remote terrain.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center listed the avalanche danger on March 9 at mid and high elevations as moderate in the morning and considerable in the afternoon. A general avalanche advisory noted that “Skiers…who venture into steep avalanche terrain could trigger dense surface slabs and in isolated areas, very destructive deep hard slabs. These slabs could be triggered during the morning hours and will become more sensitive to human triggers as temperatures increase.”

UPDATE: Victims identified in Colorado avalanche

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GEORGETOWN, Colo.  — Five deaths over the weekend brought to 11 the number of avalanche fatalities in Colorado this season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

A total of six people were buried in the Saturday (April 20) avalanche near Loveland Pass, and only one suvived.

According to the center’s preliminary report:

A backcountry touring party of six, on splitboards and skis, were caught in an avalanche in the Sheep Creek area near Loveland Pass. Five of the riders were killed. The group may have triggered the avalanche from below the start zone, low in the avalanche path. The avalanche released into old snow layers and the ground. Approximate dimensions of the crown face of the avalanche are 4 feet deep and 500 feet wide.

The incident was the second fatal avalanche in the state in less than a week. On April 18, two snowboarders using snowmobiles to reach the backcountry from Vail Pass were hit, according to the center. One was pushed into a grouping of trees and died, and the other rode most of the way out and survived. The avalanche was 10 feet deep and almost 300 feet wide, according to the center’s preliminary report.

Earlier report

GEORGETOWN, Colo. — Five snowboarders died in a backcountry avalanche near Loveland Pass in the Arapahoe National Forest on Saturday. A sixth snowboarder survived.

NBC news has a good piece on the accident here .. http://nbcnews.to/10rxkUb

The victims are identified here … http://ow.ly/khglB

Avalanche death at Ypsilon Mountain

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On Thursday, crews set out to recover the body of an Estes Park man who apparently died in an avalance at Rocky Mountain National Park earlier this week. The body was discovered Tuesday in the Upper Fay Lakes drainage on the north slope of Ypsilon Mountain. His climbing partner survived and was taken to a hospital. Here’s the National Parks Service account of what happened:

David Laurienti, 43, is presumed dead from injuries believed to be sustained in a fall, likely occurring in an avalanche. Search efforts began March 19 for Laurienti and Lisa Foster, two overdue climbers from Estes Park. At around 2:45 p.m. park rangers found Foster, 45, in the upper Fay Lakes basin approximately 6 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Ms. Foster and Mr. Laurienti had been caught in an avalanche at approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, when descending from the north side of Blitzen Ridge on the 13,514 foot Ypsilon Mountain. Foster suffered numerous injuries. Park rangers provided her with assistance, medical care and evacuated her via toboggan from Ypsilon Lake, which is roughly 4.5 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead Specific information on her injuries will not be released. Over 32 park rescuers were involved in in the efforts plus six members of Larimer County Search and Rescue.

Blitzen Ridge on Ypsilon Mountain is a challenging mountaineering route that includes sections of technical rock, often made more difficult in winter conditions. Recent snow and winds have contributed to what the Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasted as considerable avalanche conditions in this area since Saturday.

Avalanche recovery

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Avalanche Victim’s Body Recovered from Survey Peak
January 29, 2013

Grand Teton National Park rangers were able to recover the body of Nick Gillespie, age 30, of Jackson, Wyo, from Berry Creek canyon at 5 p.m. on January 28. Foggy conditions throughout most of Monday prevented earlier attempts to complete the mission before late afternoon. Rangers also concluded their investigation of the avalanche event that took his life on Sunday afternoon. Gillespie, a long-time seasonal employee of Grand Teton, was caught in an avalanche on the southeast face of Survey Peak (elevation 9,277 feet) at approximately 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 27, and he died as a result of injuries suffered in the slide.

Gillespie and three companions skied into Berry Creek canyon in the northern Teton Range on Thursday, January 24, intending to do a multi-day backcountry ski trip. On Sunday afternoon, Gillespie and one companion skied a run on the southeast face of Survey Peak. They then returned with a third member of their party to ski a final run. During that final run, the group planned to ski at one-minute intervals and fan out across the treed slopes. Gillespie was the last person to ski, and is believed to have triggered the avalanche that caught him.

Gillespie was carried approximately 220 feet into trees where he was pinned and left partially buried with his head and one arm above the snow. The total slide path spanned 540 feet. The second skier encountered fresh avalanche debris, and believing that the first skier may have triggered it, immediately initiated a beacon search. He also called out and heard the first skier respond from below. He skied down to the first skier and learned that she was unaware of the avalanche. He then immediately skinned back of the slope to search with his avalanche beacon for Gillespie. He located Gillespie about 20 minutes after the accident occurred and initiated CPR. He was joined by the two other members of the party and in total, they performed CPR for approximately 1 ½ hours with no success.

Due to the remote area and spotty cell service, Gillespie’s companions were not able to make an emergency call for help until late evening. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notice of the incident at 9 p.m. on Sunday. Because of the late hour and confirmation that Gillespie did not revive during CPR, rangers made arrangements to recover Gillespie’s companions and his body during daylight hours on Monday, January 28. The surviving party of three stayed the night in a National Park Service patrol cabin located about one mile from Survey Peak.

Four rangers were flown into Berry Creek canyon at 11 a.m. Monday and two of the skiers were flown out during the single flight. Deteriorating weather conditions halted additional flights until late afternoon when Gillespie’s body plus one of his partners and all rescue personnel were flown out of the backcountry just before nightfall.

The avalanche danger on Sunday, January 27, was listed as low for mid-elevation terrain. The crown of the avalanche on Survey Peak occurred at 8,405 feet.

Rangers recommend that backcountry users get the latest avalanche conditions and monitor both local weather and changing snow conditions. Backcountry users should also be prepared for all aspects of backcountry travel and travel with others, plus carry basic avalanche equipment such as a shovel, avalanche probe, avalanche beacon, and first aid kit.

Skiers survive avalanche

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Skiers Trigger Avalanche in Park
January 9, 2013

Two skiers triggered an avalanche on Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park, Montana, on Tuesday afternoon. Park dispatch received a call at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 8, indicating that two skiers were involved in an avalanche and one skier was injured. Park rangers and local emergency personnel organized and responded to the incident.

At approximately 6:30 p.m. park rangers found the skiers and transported them to a nearby trailhead. The Glacier County EMS Ambulance transported the injured skier to a medical facility and the other skier was released at the scene. The skiers, male age 34 and male age 35, both from the local area, were skiing a ridge of Elk Mountain, just west of Marias Pass, when one of the skiers fell and triggered an avalanche. The skier was carried with the slide and partially buried. The other skier was skiing below when the avalanche occurred and was able to escape from the avalanche slide path, and then help rescue his companion. The skier that was partially buried sustained significant injuries.

Emergency personnel assisting Glacier National Park Rangers included members of the Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services, Glacier County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead County Search and Rescue, and North Valley Search and Rescue.

All backcountry recreationists are highly encouraged to be prepared for winter conditions, including awareness and understanding of avalanche terrain, mountain weather, snowpack conditions, current avalanche advisories, as well as being prepared with appropriate equipment such as beacons, probes, poles and shovels. Recreationists should have the knowledge and skills to safely utilize the equipment as needed.

Avalanche on Mt. McKinley

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(NOTES: Originally posted June 8, 2012. Re-posted here for archival purposes)

Four people are presumed dead in an avalanche on Mount McKinley. One made it out. Here’s the National Park Service release on the incident:

Avalanche Recovery Efforts Suspended on Mt. McKinley
Date: June 17, 2012

TALKEETNA, Alaska: A two-day ground search of the debris path from a fatal avalanche on Mt. McKinley was suspended Sunday after clues were found confirming the likely location of four deceased climbers. Mr. Yoshiaki Kato, 64, Ms. Masako Suda, 50, Ms. Michiko Suzuki, 56, and Mr. Tamao Suzuki, 63, of the Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation expedition are presumed to have died in the avalanche, while one team member, Mr. Hitoshi Ogi, 69, survived the event with a minor hand injury, according to officials with the National Park Service.

All are from Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.

The avalanche happened at approximately 11,800-feet on the West Buttress, and was originally believed to have occurred early morning June 14. However rangers have since confirmed with both Ogi and multiple teams on the mountain that the slide occurred during the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 13.

Ogi was swept into a crevasse and subsequently climbed out with minor injuries. He was unable to locate his teammates in the avalanche debris. Throughout the day, Ogi descended solo to the Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200 feet, where he reported the accident shortly after 4:00 pm. June 14.

An aerial hasty search the park’s A-Star B3 helicopter took place on June 14 followed by an initial four-member NPS ground search the following day. On Saturday, June 16, an expanded 10-person ground crew consisting of rangers, volunteer patrol members, a dog handler, and a trained search and rescue dog probed and further investigated the debris zone. During the search, mountaineering ranger Tucker Chenoweth descended into the same crevasse that the survivor Hitoshi Ogi had fallen into during the avalanche. While probing through the debris roughly 30 meters below the glacier surface, Chenoweth found a broken rope end that matched the MWAF team’s rope. He began to dig further, but encountered heavily compacted ice and snow debris. Due to the danger of ice fall within the crevasse, it was decided to permanently suspend the recovery efforts.

There have six climbing fatalities on Mt. McKinley this season. Since 1932, a total of 120 climbers have perished on the mountain, 12 due to avalanches. This week’s four avalanche fatalities were the first to occur on the popular West Buttress route. (6.18.12)