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Schweitzer In-bounds Avalanche: 12/7/12

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I just heard that there was an in-bounds avalanche at Schweitzer this morning on Headwall.  A friend of mine triggered it and was carried about 75 yards and buried, except that he was able to breathe so he was lucky.  He had to be extricated as he wasn't able to unbury himself.  Details are pretty sketchy at this point but it caught at least one other person (saw a total of three at TGR but not what I heard) who was partially buried.  Several people trying to get to my buddy were wiping out on the rain layer that was the slide bed with one person sliding into a tree.  No serious injuries but my friend is feeling pretty beat up right now.  10" of fluff over blue ice all over the mountain right now.  This reminds me of two years ago with an early December layer that never healed and went VERY BIG in places late in the year.  It's going to be another difficult year in the back country so everyone needs to pay heed to this all season.  Predictability is going to be virtually impossible as the season wears on.  Be careful out there.

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post #2 of 23

Glad your friend is okay.  If there is a place on that mountain to release, Headwall has to be #1 candidate.

 

 Scary stuff for a base layer.  Do all the Inland places have the low ice layer under the fluff?  Be careful one and all.

post #3 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stranger View Post

Glad your friend is okay.  If there is a place on that mountain to release, Headwall has to be #1 candidate.

 

 Scary stuff for a base layer.  Do all the Inland places have the low ice layer under the fluff?  Be careful one and all.

 

We don't have that layer.  There are isolated patches of an ice layer from some October snow that are lingering on North & East faces above 9500' or so.  The nice part about all the warm weather and rain we have been having is most of it melted.  Hopefully what is left is getting bridged nicely and won't present a problem as a persistent deep slab instability.

post #4 of 23

Maybe we are lucky.  We have no snow, so no layers...

 

Bad vibes from this...

 

Mike

post #5 of 23

Tahoe got a big rain storm after an early layer. It consolidated everything, going from rain to slush, to snow. The next storm will have to come in that way also. hoping for stability.

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

So, it turns out that TWO of my friends got caught in separate slides, same pitch, within two minutes of each other.  The first one was buried with his head downhill and stuck until someone happened along (within 30 seconds), saw his ski that was still attached and dug out his head.  Time under somewhere around a minute and a half.  Thank God he was seen that quickly.  The second guy came to the top of a roll, stopped, looked at it and figured 'What the hell', took two turns and went down head first.  He struck a rock with his helmet, got spun to head uphill then was buried to his chest.  He dug himself out within about 15 minutes.  All are lucky and no injuries.

 

That layer will be with us until the snow melts off in May.  This will be deep and a bit unpredictable.  Be very careful this season, it's going to be sketchy.

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post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldMember View Post

So, it turns out that TWO of my friends got caught in separate slides, same pitch, within two minutes of each other.  The first one was buried with his head downhill and stuck until someone happened along (within 30 seconds), saw his ski that was still attached and dug out his head.  Time under somewhere around a minute and a half.  Thank God he was seen that quickly.  The second guy came to the top of a roll, stopped, looked at it and figured 'What the hell', took two turns and went down head first.  He struck a rock with his helmet, got spun to head uphill then was buried to his chest.  He dug himself out within about 15 minutes.  All are lucky and no injuries.

 

That layer will be with us until the snow melts off in May.  This will be deep and a bit unpredictable.  Be very careful this season, it's going to be sketchy.

 

Glad to hear they both made it out alive and well-- lucky. Looks like a dangerous snowpack for some folks this year. 

post #8 of 23

Shortly after the avalanche I talked to a ski patrol member who was posted to keep people from entering the avalanche vicinity.  She said there were a total of 4 people buried, 2 head up and 2 head down.  There was a big rain event was on Tuesday (with more rain previous to that as well) and I was originally planning on skinning up on Wednesday but thought better of it with just a couple of inches of new snow over the rain crust.  On the weekend when they opened Chair 4 (Sunnyside) it was interesting to note that there wasn't as noticable of a rain crust on the south facing terrain as there was on north facing areas.  A rain crust is not that unusual of an event for Schweitzer.  I have only been skiing there for 3 years but in my experience both rain and wind crusts inbounds seem to heal pretty well.  You can have everything sloughing off of a crust one day (and the area closed) and have snow binding consistently a week later.  This seems to especially happen a few times a season in the Lakeside Chutes area.  BTW, the headwall is a treed area which is only moderately steep and not the most likely area at Schweitzer to slide.

post #9 of 23
Nothing scares me more than an avalanche. Went to Alta last year with a few buddies and the sounds of TNT all day long for 3 days straight was very unnerving.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by swisstrader View Post

Nothing scares me more than an avalanche. Went to Alta last year with a few buddies and the sounds of TNT all day long for 3 days straight was very unnerving.

I'm far more scared of other skiers

post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by swisstrader View Post

Nothing scares me more than an avalanche. Went to Alta last year with a few buddies and the sounds of TNT all day long for 3 days straight was very unnerving.

Hmm. I love that sound.  

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

Hmm. I love that sound.  

In the mountains, I do too. Usually means avy control work is underway following a dump, and more terrain will soon open. In other settings, the sound of high explosives being detonated is frequently much less reassuring. 

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

Hmm. I love that sound.  

 

I agree with Bazzer.  In the morning on the mountain, when I wake up to the sound of explosives; I love it.  The same with helicopters.  When I hear them floating around the mountains, it gets my blood pumping.  Outside those environs, though, not so much. 

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post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldMember View Post

So, it turns out that TWO of my friends got caught in separate slides, same pitch, within two minutes of each other.  The first one was buried with his head downhill and stuck until someone happened along (within 30 seconds), saw his ski that was still attached and dug out his head.  Time under somewhere around a minute and a half.  Thank God he was seen that quickly.  The second guy came to the top of a roll, stopped, looked at it and figured 'What the hell', took two turns and went down head first.  He struck a rock with his helmet, got spun to head uphill then was buried to his chest.  He dug himself out within about 15 minutes.  All are lucky and no injuries.

 

That layer will be with us until the snow melts off in May.  This will be deep and a bit unpredictable.  Be very careful this season, it's going to be sketchy.

 

Glad your friends are okay and everyone got out with nothing more than a scare.

 

Good reminder that snow does slide inbounds as well and I'd bet I know exactly where one of the release points was. Headwall definitely is steep enough to slide and has over the years. 

 

Plenty of zones locally didn't get that rain layer. Will be something to keep an eye on, but I really think Schweitzer got it especially bad.

post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Si View Post

BTW, the headwall is a treed area which is only moderately steep and not the most likely area at Schweitzer to slide.

 

For the most part, that's true, but toward the very bottom the slope does roll over into a much steeper pitch for the last...Idaknow...100 feet or so.  Kinda the opposite of most slopes that mellow out toward the bottom.  Still, I read this post and thought it odd they would have the chutes of the South Ridge open, yet have the (mostly) more mellow Headwall closed.  I was skiing off the triple that day, but I didn't know about it until Goldmember posted this thread.

 

Anyhoo, I was in line at the ski tuner's window this morning with a patroller.  Sure enough, he verified it was the steep very bottom section of Headwall that slid.  He also said that after they took care of the slide but before they could get the closure signs up, a woman skied into the same area, hit the layer of frozen snow exposed by the slide, took a bad spill and got injured somehow.  I didn't ask the nature of her injuries, but his tone implied that it wasn't too serious.

 

They've since roped it off ( in addition to the signs), and he was laughing about how much rope it took...it's a big area, and you can enter from just about anywhere all around it.  He says they're going to start regular control work on it from now on, and they expect to open it back up in the next couple of days.

 

To close on a more chipper note, tho, t'was an awesome day off  Chair 4 today!  

post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

skierish - Yes, the rollover is where it occurred.  My one buddy stopped at the rollover, thought about it, decided to go, made two turns and it went.  Do you know where the rocks are kind of just near the bottom?  He hit one with his head/helmet (thankfully he had it on) and it turned him around so his head was uphill and he wasn't fully buried so, no real issues.  My other buddy was head downhill and got extricated by someone close by so no major issues (other than being humbled). The woman/girl that hit the tree was yet another friend's 16 year old niece.  She had back pain, leg pain, bit her tongue and through her lip. They took her to Bonner County Hospital by ambulance but didn't keep her.  No broken bones, just scared to death and beat-up and bruised.  Really, fairly lucky no major injuries. 

 

Oooops.  Guess I said most of this in the above post.  redface.gif

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post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldMember View Post

 

Oooops.  Guess I said most of this in the above post.  redface.gif

 

Meh, no biggie.  Besides, you filled in the details about the girl.  It's good to know for sure it wasn't anything serious...although biting through one's own lip and into the tongue is definitely not a pleasant experience.  Hope they're all back up there soon.

post #18 of 23

It's good to hear everyone came out without major injuries and will recover.  GoldMember, those boulders at the bottom are kinda useless.  If there's enough base to ski up to them there's not much left to hop off of (if I'm thinking of the right place).

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 

Si - First, long time, no see.  Welcome back!  Yes, I think you're thinking of the right place but even with more snow, jumping them would take you to a pretty flat landing right at the bottom of the slope into a hole.  It's not prime launching territory.

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post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by swisstrader View Post

Nothing scares me more than an avalanche. Went to Alta last year with a few buddies and the sounds of TNT all day long for 3 days straight was very unnerving.

 

 Of course you realize that lot's of new snow and no TNT noise is much more unnerving, non? smile.gif

post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldMember View Post

Si - First, long time, no see.  Welcome back!  Yes, I think you're thinking of the right place but even with more snow, jumping them would take you to a pretty flat landing right at the bottom of the slope into a hole.  It's not prime launching territory.

Yes, I only look at Epic on occasion. Now that I live with a mountain just up the road I guess I get my share that way. Normally I'd be up at the mountain today but I've got an out of town visitor. Perhaps I'll see you on the mountain this year.

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Si View Post

Yes, I only look at Epic on occasion. Now that I live with a mountain just up the road I guess I get my share that way. Normally I'd be up at the mountain today but I've got an out of town visitor. Perhaps I'll see you on the mountain this year.

I also meant to say that's part of the reason I think of those boulders as worthless.  Last year (our biggest snow pack of all time) you could hop off of those near the end of the season (only a few feet or so by then) when there was soft snow but otherwise, like you said the landings are flat.

post #23 of 23

For those locals that are interested: 

 

A Spokane TV news segment:

 

http://www.khq.com/category/195686/video-landing-page?clipId=8062102&autostart=true

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