NOTE CORRECTIONS AND NEW INFORMATION HAS BEEN ADDED 3.24.2011
Here are some photos of the avalanche that killed a local Palmer resident and backcountry user on the 19th of March. In the interest of understanding this incident for educational purposes I am posting some photos of the avalanche aftermath. More information will be posted as it become available.
It is always a serious loss when we loose family, friends, partners or community members. Our condolences go out to the effected family and friends.
HS-ASu-R3D3-O : The crown was 45-120cm deep. The path was 150 feet wide. The avalanche ran 1600 feet into the creek bottom and 100 feet up the other side of the valley wall. Difficult to see in the photo, but if you squint you can see the debris pile. A pit profile was documented by Eeva Latosuo from APU and is available under pits. Other stability tests were conducted by Wendy Wagner and Allie Barker. They showed poor structure, high energy, and high strength. This is consistent with the low number of avalanches over the last month due to the bridging strength of the hard slab over poorly bonded facets and crusts. A weak point was identified in the crown. It was a large rock and probably was the weak trigger point in the slab, although this has not been confirmed. Other weak points, or thin hard slab sections could have been the trigger.
This incident and information is useful as a reminder that even though avalanches may not be prevalent, they are still possible and can be significant. As a backcountry user this is a great learning experience to become familiar with this type of snow pack and realize the risks you are taking; low probability, but high consequence.
In these situations it is of utmost importance that if you decide to ski a slope, make sure it does not end in a terrain trap, or involve shark like rock teeth, etc. This is one problem that compounded the danger of this avalanche since the victim ended in a creek buried about 14 feet deep. Even if his partner was capable of rescuing him he had a tiny margin for success that deep in the snowpack.
Also important to note here is that this type of snow pack often deserves a LOW hazard rating because the probability of triggering an avalanche is the function of the assessment, NOT the consequence of an avalanche. Many avalanche forecasters have pulled their hair out issuing low danger ratings during high consequence avalanche cycles. All the more reason to be educated.
More photos of the avalanche:
Notice the avalanches triggered by the snowboarder and snowmachiner are in rocky areas.
Here’s a link to a press release: http://www.adn.com/2011/03/20/1766387/body-of-skier-killed-by-avalanch.html
Pit profile from crown archived in pits