Marble Avalanches, Quarry Road Report

Post by blogger | March 7, 2011      

Backcountry skiing accessed by the Quarry Road near Marble, Colorado is a good call. At least sometimes. But savvy skiers and riders know that more than fourteen avalanche paths drop over the two mile section of road used to access the goods. When things get unstable, even driving the road can put your life in danger. A few photos showing the aftermath of one such slide cycle (happened about a week ago, on March 1).

Marble, Colorado, Quarry Road snow avalanches are dangerous.

Two big slides went over Quarry Road during the last avalanche cycle. Mud Gulch, in photo above, left a debris pile about 20 feet thick that quarry workers had to punch through with big machinery. The other that ran over the road was the No Name path. It was nearly as big. Either slide would have been certain death to anyone hit by them, be the person inside or outside a vehicle. Interesting thing to me was that this slide was only slightly above average in size for the Mud path. A few years ago, a slide of about twice the volume ran and knocked down a forest to lookers right of the normal path. And judging from the age of nearby aspen trees, Mud runs even bigger than that on a 70 or 80 year average. Click image to enlarge.

Marble Quarry Road avalanche.

Mud Gulch avalanche starting zone is complex. It always interests me how some of the ribs don't slide (note fracture lines), and could function as a safe route even during extreme conditions. Of course the ribs peter out lower down and dump you on to steep terrain that would be terrifying, if not fatal. Another thing interesting about this slide is that the starting zone only involves a layer of snow from the latest storm, yet still produced huge volume and force. Click image to enlarge.



8 Responses to “Marble Avalanches, Quarry Road Report”

  1. Dave C. March 7th, 2011 10:08 am

    There’s a harrowing and visceral account of a recent fatal avalanche in British Columbia here:

  2. Lou March 7th, 2011 11:02 am

    Dave, thanks for sharing that link. This person’s unselfish willingness to share will save lives. It shows why keeping your avalanche mistakes and incidents private, while an understandable personal choice, can be selfish. He is correct about “judging,” but on the other hand we can discuss and learn from mistakes, ours and other’s. Also, we can learn from things that simply don’t work. Horrifying that his beacon quit during mid-search. Interesting that beacons made no difference in the results. Lesson are so obvious, other than the one about keeping beacon battery power up near the top of the tank. I’m guilty of letting my beacon run down, won’t do that any more. Also interesting info about the pole straps and ski leashes. In my view, it is all those little things that can become a big deal when things go really bad. Interesting they had radios, but were not using them within their group to help comm while staying separated. That’s another lesson for me, as I’ve been trying to get my friends to use radios more and put even more effort into skiing one at a time but do get lazy about that. I’m inspired to keep going with that as well, and make radio use pretty much a standard. Pole straps should be off in avy terrain, and if ski leashes are used they should be designed to break fairly easily. But brakes are better.

    Lastly, did I gather that a Whippet might have saved the writer’s life? I know of a number of incidents such as that with Whippets, including my son Louie’s. Come to think of it, is it possible that Whippets may have saved more lives in avalanches than Avalungs?

    Amazingly interesting stuff. Am so sorry the writer had to go through what he did, but incredibly thankful he shares.

    In closing, I’d like to remind all my friends and WildSnow readers how incredibly important it is to ski one-at-a-time so as to expose only one person at a time to avy hazard, as well as weight the slope with only one skier. We get taught that lesson so frequently, but break the rules so often…

  3. Lou March 7th, 2011 11:07 am

    If Dow or the survivor/writer sees this, perhaps they’d let us do a condensed re-print as a public service? Dow?

    (Apologies for above comment assuming Dow was the writer, I edited.)

  4. eric March 7th, 2011 2:04 pm

    Are you aware if fracture the mud gulch avalanche was only the new snow layer or if perhaps released from one of those surface hoar layers from january?

  5. Lou March 7th, 2011 2:12 pm

    Eric, didn’t I mention that somewhere?

  6. Lou March 7th, 2011 2:13 pm

    Looks like the image enlarge isn’t working. Fixed.

  7. Mark W March 7th, 2011 3:21 pm

    Saw about a dozen “little” point release slides this morning. My potentially convoluted tour turned into a stroll in the sun–far below the danger zones above. One small slide I witnessed dropped about fifty feet over a cliff not far from where I often ski. Food for thought.

  8. eric March 8th, 2011 1:40 pm

    Ahh, yes. In the caption. Thanks, Lou.

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