In December, an avalanche east of Rico buried a snowmobiler who was saved by his companions, according to a recently released report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
On Dec. 16, two snowmobilers at the base of Hermosa Peak were caught in an avalanche, and one was buried. No injuries were reported.
According to a Jan. 26 CAIC incident report, a group of nine snowmobilers traveled up the Barlow Creek road from Colorado Highway 145. They rode around in deep snow in the meadows at the base of Hermosa Peak in Dolores County.
Some in the group decided to ride up a low-angle slope that was below a steeper slope on the lower part of the peak. There was wind-drifted snow at the top of the slope and evidence of old avalanche activity.
After one snowmobiler came off the slope, two others began climbing toward the top of a ridge. When one rider higher up maneuvered to extend his climb, the slope released.
The avalanche broke along the top of the ridgeline and was at least 350 feet wide. As it slid, a snowmobiler climbing the slope turned to evade debris but got knocked off his machine and was buried except for one arm. His snowmobile was buried.
The other snowmobiler caught in the slide higher up managed to ride out of the slide.
Group members quickly located and dug out the buried rider, whose helmet had been torn off. At first he was unresponsive to verbal commands, but after his airway was cleared, he came to and was unhurt, according to the report.
“Everyone in the group rode away unharmed but came very close to being part of a tragic accident,” the report states. The identities of the snowmobilers have not been released.
As is often the case, the group could have done a few things to avoid the situation, according to a CAIC analysis. They also did some important things right, and their actions led to a good outcome.
The group was equipped with avalanche rescue equipment and worked together to rescue the buried rider in about a minute, the report states. They quickly uncovered his head and cleared his airway.
The report faulted the group for having more than one person on the slope at the same time, not checking the avalanche forecast before heading into backcountry and changing the type of terrain they were riding without checking or discussing it. The forecast warned about triggering avalanches in wind-drifted areas, which is an area that slid.
So far, three avalanches have caught backcountry recreationists, killing one, in the San Juan Mountains this winter:
On Jan. 3, a party of three snowshoers was ascending a southeast-facing slope near Trico Peak west of Red Mountain Pass. One snowshoer punched through the upper snowpack layers and triggered the avalanche, which caught all three people. One snowshoer, buried up to his chest, was dug out by the other two. All were uninjured and returned to their vehicle.On Jan. 5, Peter Marshall died after being buried in an avalanche on Upper Senator Beck Basin, near Red Mountain Pass. Marshall was participating in a class with the Silverton Avalanche School when two avalanches were released.On Jan. 25, a snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche in Dark Canyon, in the La Sal Mountains of southeast Utah. His party attempted a rescue but was unable to locate him as night was falling. On Jan. 26, the man’s body was recovered in the afternoon after a search that included San Juan and Grand County search and rescue agencies, Utah Department of Public Safety and rescue dogs and handlers from Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, and Alta and Park City ski firstname.lastname@example.org