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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Avalanche death in the Tetons


Reposted from TGR

adrenaline junky

"Thursday I dug my friend's body out of the apron of pucker face. Check in with Bridger Teton Avalanche in the next week or so, where you will find a thorough recap on what went wrong, what went right and what our main take aways were from this tragic loss of our good friend Mike.

We share because we care and we don't want anyone to ever repeat the mistakes that were made yesterday.

And just an FYI, we weren't a group of uneducated kids out the gates. My self and most of my partners are experienced, avi 1 and 2 certified back country enthusiast that spend more time in gtnp and other remote ranges then you could imagine. The village sidecountry was new terrain and mistakes were made and we paid dearly.

On the red flags and warning signs:

- Yes, there had been avalanches on similar terrain, but most of these slid 48-36 hours to the event. Yes there were slides on the apron of no shadows and pucker but when we were hiking up and we passed Jackson Hole Mountain Guides with their clients heading to no shadows and 4 shadows, we got a false sense of safety.

- Yes,it was warming up but with the winds on that ridge we did not feel the actual temp the face was affected by.

- Cracks and whoomps we're not noticed on a similar aspects earlier. There was no way we could get onto this face and check with out putting our selves in harms way. When we cut the cornice I was roped up on belay just in case but I wasn't about to get on that face with a parachute cord attached to my waste.

- Yes, we had significant wind and snow loading 48+ hours before the event.

We made a ton of mistakes and ignored a lot of signs we shouldn't have. As a splitboarder who spends most of my time in gtnp, i was thrown off by not being immersed in a climb where I spend hours and countless tests/observations regarding what is safe to ski and not. Being unfamiliar to the sidecountry, I should have studied up on pucker because it is obvious we should never have been on that face and we paid dearly with the loss of a great friend.

Another problem was group mentality. We were a group of 6 which progressed our comfort on the line. We're we comfortable, no, we were all a little bugged out and even went over SAR scenario if it slid. Right before Mike dropped he asked if everyone was alright and committed to the line and everyone agreed. In reality I think we a had doubts but did not want to speak up being a group of 6 who had spent the last 40 minutes on top of a line.

After it slid is when good decisions were made. We all watched for visuals or a last seen point. A partner was on the phone with ski patrol in 20 seconds. I looked left and right , checking for hang fire and made the decision to descend the face, by snowboarding at the top and climbing/billy hosting down the rocks just above the apron.

Once I got down I started the grid and with the help of Dave Miller (lead guide) probed mike in 6 minutes. Once we had him probed there were more guides and clients all helping dig in a organized V formation. We got Mike's air hole cleared in something like 15 minutes but with the way he settled at the bottom, he didn't have an air hole or room to even expand his lungs.

We had two doctors, ski patrol, guides, everybody reacted so quickly and efficiently. CPR was given for 35 minutes but Mike was flat lined. The rescue effort and everyone involved deserves serious props. In many cases we could have saved a life.

This has been one of the toughest times for our party, Mike's family and friends. Please send positive vibes to Mike and learn from our mistakes. "

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