Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
We get some snow in October, and people go crazy out there! We had an exceptional number of incidents and close calls this past month. The following synopsis is from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) website. Check there for more details. You can bet there was more going on out there than what was reported.
In October, 7 avalanches caught 9 people in Colorado (this is the count of reported avalanches by CAIC, and several more actually occurred that we know of). Of those 9 people, 3 were partially buried with their faces exposed, and 2 fully buried or their faces were covered. If you read the details (see link above), you’ll notice the usual litany of mistakes. More than one person exposed to hazard at one time seemed to be the most common, and continues to be a disturbing trend. But the attitude of simply going for it no matter what seems to be a thread as well. And of course, some of these folks probably did all the right stuff and got caught anyway.
October 5, 2009. Mount Meeker, Rocky Mountain National Park
The first reported 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.
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 ran from near the summit to the lake, about 1200 vertical feet. This one could easily have been multiple fatalities.
October 17, 2009. Tyndall Glacier, 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.
October 23, 2009. 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.
October 25, 2009. Flattop Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park
This slide was skier triggered on Flattop Mountain on a run known locally as the Hourglass. The second skier down the couloir triggered the slide. Initially the crown was 4 inches deep but stepped down another foot.
October 25, 2009. Loveland Pass
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. 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
Two skiers ascended into a narrow, 40 to 45 degree couloir. They triggered the avalanche at that point. The avalanche carried them about 1000 vertical feet. One skier was completely buried, the second buried with just a hand free 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 were hurt but returned to the trailhead on their own.
October 31, 2009. Bartlett Mountain, Fremont Pass
A group of three dropped into a steep northeast to east facing couloir. The first skier was 2 to 3 turns down when the slope cut loose. 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. Rescue was successful.