DeVore Survives Recent Slide, Others Are Tragic

Post by blogger | April 29, 2011      

Nick DeVore backcountry skiing.

Nick DeVore doing what he does best.

Just when you think things are getting safer our there due to spring snowpack conditions, avalanche tragedy and near tragedy strike. Sierra East Side, around beginning of this week (exact day/time unknown) well known ski mountaineer Kip Garre and his girlfriend Allison Kreutzen died in an avalanche on Split Mountain. A recovery/rescue effort ensued that involved a number of the couple’s friends. Condolences to all involved. Details here.

Yesterday, in our nearby Elk Mountains of central Colorado, famed telemark skier Nick DeVore took a dire avalanche ride that resulted in a broken femur and backcountry helicopter rescue. It sounds like Nick was at the scene for quite some time, with associated blood loss from his injury. Super serious and definitely a close call for the guy. Nick is in hospital having undergone surgery yesterday (Thursday). Prayers from us for no complications and speedy healing. DeVore details here, and below is his own account from his Facebook:

From Nick: Well…..Its official. I’m laying down in my hospital bed with a broken femur, they have actually already fixed it with a titanium rod and a few screws. A small wet pocket ripped out as I jumped a cornice into this steep but short line, I almost had it but it sucked me in and sent my flying toward a protruding boulder where I broke my femur. I tomahawked and rolled and slid with the wet slide until I finely came to a stop and was just able to remove the snow from around my face, only my head was popping out. The pain was far beyond what I have experienced. After about two hours the helicopter came in a took me to Aspen Valley Hospital where I will be chilling for a while… Thanks for all the love and the incredible rescue performed by my friends and the heli peeps and the hospital!!

We’ve had somewhat of an extended winter in our area. Result is what the avy gurus are calling a “schizophrenic” snowpack. What’s happened is due to storms and cooler temps our snowpack overall has been delayed in the general settling and stabilization that occurs as temperatures warm and the sun is up longer. As a result a slope at just the right elevation and aspect will be bomber — while another slope perhaps higher or more northerly will remain layered and slabby, or with weird pockets of instability that are really hard to spot till you’re on them. Stability always varies of course, but in this situation it varies to an extreme degree.

My way of dealing with a schizo snowpack is to dial back my goals, and if we encounter unconsolidated snow to stay off steep areas where things may be hanging by a thread. Easier said than done, as any big day of ski alpinism is going to involve varied elevations and exposures. In the end, the safest approach is to suss out one aspect and elevation range that’s super safe, and just lap that for fun, leaving the big goals for another day. I’ll admit that’s a tough call for me, as I like summits and big lines as much as the next guy. But I try.

The other avalanche accident that truly elicits tears is that of Pannell Kuhl and Gregory Seftick, who were found this past Sunday buried in their tent in Garnet Canyon, Tetons. While it’s easy to second guess this one, I’d offer that when visibility is bad and you don’t know an area well, setting up camp in an avy runout is a mistake any of us could make. It sounds like Kuhl and Seftick were wonderful guys — our condolences to family and friends. More here.


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18 Responses to “DeVore Survives Recent Slide, Others Are Tragic”

  1. Greig Scott April 29th, 2011 8:47 am

    and more bad news from Switzerland

    14 x 8,000m peaks and get killed guiding on a simple touring peak

  2. Lou April 29th, 2011 8:55 am

    Greig, that’s really sad…

  3. Randonnee April 29th, 2011 9:30 am
  4. doug April 29th, 2011 9:40 am

    hey, i was gonna ask you about Nick at Real Men’s group this morning. bet it brought back memories of your femur busting ride!

  5. Greig Scott April 29th, 2011 9:44 am

    ….and I am guessing you have already seen this, Lou. Bad week.

  6. Combiner April 29th, 2011 10:29 am

    I wonder on which bindings he was.

  7. Tom April 29th, 2011 10:47 am

    Some not real honest judgement going on. Last day of Highlands there were people standing at the top of Maroon Bowl talking themselves into skiing it. I pointed out that there had been a recent storm (previous several nights), very recent slide activity (that morning) and it is a bottleneck.

    Apparently that made them want to ski it even more and off they went. Some just get lucky, some don’t.

  8. Lou April 29th, 2011 11:25 am

    Tom, I’d agree, from what I’m seeing over this winter everyone could dial it back just a hair and that would make a huge difference in close calls and deaths. Dialing it back doesn’t have to kill the fun, as just being more fanatical about some basic principles can make a huge difference. For example (and not necessarily related to the accidents covered in this post or commented on above).

    – Don’t stop and wait or take photos in area where a slide would go.
    – Ski one at a time, from totally safe zone to safe zone, in all suspect terrain.
    – Change habit and desire to jump off things to start a run, rather than skiing gently, as a number of bad accidents seem to have that as a root cause over the years.
    – Meditate on the fact that getting caught in avalanches is likely to either hurt you bad or kill you (seems like many online videos are attempting to ignore that fact, and that’s disturbing.)
    – Avoid terrain traps, period.
    – If you get caught in a slide, be mature and blame your own decision making, learn from it, and help others learn from your mistakes.

    All of us just doing more of the above would radically change avalanche injury and death statistics.

  9. Matt Kinney April 29th, 2011 11:36 am

    Sad day for sure for Garre and Kruetzen. Much will be written about Garre. His friend was quite the athlete as I see her name pop on some 100 mile runs. My deepest prayers to all who knew and skied with them.

    Nick is always in the hospital with broken bones from skiing. Tthe guy is banged up all the time. He is barely recovered from another incident. How many times do you have to cartwheel down a mountain before you get the message. Glad he is OK after his latest incident. At this rate of injury and risk he will be lucky to be skiing when he is 40, thus I hope he “cools his free heel” a bit longer after he recovers from his most recent mishap. Life is too frai.

    Of course we will see more of this as skiers who live in the steeps end up seriously hurt eventually. They all do with very few exceptions. The list is long. Very few if any survive a life skiing like that ALL the time. Its just the way it is.

  10. Jordan April 29th, 2011 1:43 pm

    Whoa Buddy. I’m not even sure what to say in response to that. Seems like something to think but maybe not say…at least not the day after an accident. His last injury was on a covered rock inbounds…seems the two are a bit different from one another…. Just saying.


  11. Lou April 29th, 2011 2:14 pm

    Guys, I’ll offer that getting a bit of feedback when you’re 20 something and banging yourself up can be quite useful. I know from experience. When things like this happen to you, you usually know it might be better to dial it back a bit, but hearing that from some folks outside your circle validates the instinct. Might be better to hear it in private than on a web forum, but still…

    Not saying I’d let anything close to a pile-on happen here as we should mostly just be sending our love to NIck, but I’m okay with Matt’s take as a balance to that.

    Meanwhile, yeah, probably enough of that. Let’s just love on the guy.

  12. Mason April 29th, 2011 3:11 pm

    The snowpack this winter in SW Montana has been far less hazardous than years past, overall stability has been great, and now that Spring has supposedly arrived we think it is time to go big. Not so fast! The last 4 weeks in a row I have been taken by surprise and have turned back from original goals. Week one: we triggered a huge deep slab and I went for a short ride near the crown. Week two: ski cut the top of a mellow coiloir, triggered a slide, hiked back up and didn’t ski it. Week three: witnessed a skier triggered, 14″ soft slab, on a crust, only 32 degrees, we did not ski original goal, later triggered a potential leg breaking wet loose avalanche. Today: had a loud collapse while skinning up a mellow bowl, it echoed off the cliffs, I have been on this slope 40 times and never had this happen, we turned around and went home. Schizophrenic is right!!!

  13. chase harrison April 29th, 2011 3:38 pm

    I am waiting for great early morning turns on epic corn in June and low avy danger.
    Patients is a vertue.

  14. Lou April 29th, 2011 4:20 pm


  15. Lou April 29th, 2011 4:39 pm

    Rando, thanks for the link to that sobering report. It should cause any of us to take pause:

    “One leg was dismembered and unable to be located, along with one ski. One ski was found at the approximate point of rest of the injured party with the bindings ripped from the skis. The other leg appeared to have suffered significant fractures, as well…”


  16. Seth A April 29th, 2011 8:54 pm

    Hang in there Nick- I feeel for you badly, from similarly insane and perhaps a more painful experience. You have a long ride ahead but I’ll bet you’ll likely be skiing casually by winter. Gnostic Advice- DO NOT RUSH your recovery. I have paid dearly for trying.

  17. Randonnee April 29th, 2011 9:48 pm

    Yes, Lou, a tragedy for our little town of 2000 people indeed, a local High School graduate, a greatly loved young man. Condolences to family and friends. That was in one of the main areas of snowmobile-accessed skitouring where many local skiers like to go.

    I posted it here because we may learn from the tragedy. Thanks.

  18. Patrick Goodin October 5th, 2011 6:40 pm

    At 46 I don’t miss my stupid teens and twenties. Skiing and rodeo were my near death dealers. Today I remember all the paramedics and rescue folks that never came to see me in the hospital!
    When do you youngsters pay for the helo rescues or repay volunteer S&R people that pay for training “out of thier own pockets” to be there for you? How many have to die before you take that sewing machine leg syndrom to heart and back off? It is much cooler to be alive then to have folks talk about how crazy you WERE!
    Good luck getting to my age, I walk with a prostetic hip and knees, gimping! My face freezes because of the bridge work that reconstructed my face. I love the outdoors still and enjoy snowshoeing and XC skiing to winter camps. It slow and old fashioned,but I am still here


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