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5 killed in Loveland Avalanche 2013 (original title - More avalanches, more fatalities .....) - Page 3

post #61 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

I agree. I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to get over to ski in the Loveland Valley area, actually. It sounds like some of the group was over there, and I've seen bunches of tracks there since they've been closed, not sure exactly what routes people were taking to go up, but I think you can access it from higher off the road rather than having to skin all the way up. THIS IS TOTAL CONJECTURE, btw. 

To the best of my memory, the switch back dumps you off at the top of the resort,  the creek is just a short traverse over, the snow field is up above that area.  You can enter at the switch back and hike up to ski the snow field, or just traverse to sheep creek.   Or you can park at the top of the pass and hike along the ridge line and dump in at the top of the snow field, 

That being said,  I wouldn't ski over there just to get into the ski area,,,,, it's pretty lame area,  but the snow field and the run in the creek is fun.    Sheep creek is narrow and like a luge run in spots and back in the 90's had a fallen tree across it, which made for some big air off the left side of the creek bed/tree.    Fun, yes, worth going through the trouble of leaving a car at the bottom and then driving up, with so many other tasty areas around to ski, not really.  

post #62 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post

All the reports are that they did little, if anything, to trivialize the dangers.  Instead, the reports are that they were most concerned about being safe.  Lou Dawson has commented that the group size may have been too large for safe travel, but he has also commented that it is somewhat unrealistic to travel safely uphill with sufficient separation in conditions that are acceptable to virtually any backcountry traveller in a group larger than one.  Further, the reports from CAIC and those recovering the bodies seem to indicate that most of the group was in a perceived island of safety while a much smaller group was ascending one at a time above them. 

 

I'll admit my backcountry education and experience is limited, but I do have some.  Probably enough to be dangerous.  But it doesn't seem to me that these folk where inordinately taking risk in the manner that some of the comments in this thread seem to imply.  I suspect we'll soon have the opinion of investigators about what went wrong, what decisions were likely incorrect, the extent to which group think interferred, and whether the group ignored signs that should have caused them to reconsider what they were doing.  I don't think anyone here yet has that information.

 

Mike


There are so many errors here, I can't figure where to start clarifying. The general buzz around the campfire is pretty conclusive.

Once you go out in those conditions, considerable or moderate clearly demonstrated by numerous avalanches on north aspects in the area at the time, there is no safe zone, perceived or objective, there is no correct way to hike, there is no satisfying conclusion in a pit, there is no acceptable group size. Picture the whole region, under tension, just hanging there waiting for the slightest vibration or one cut into the slab to release the tension and give in to gravity.

I also believe there is no way to evaluate conditions unless you follow them carefully, day by day, throughout a long period of the season.

post #63 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post


The general buzz around the campfire is pretty conclusive.

 

Until they talk to the survivor we really don't know what happened or what they were trying to do.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

Once you go out in those conditions, considerable or moderate clearly demonstrated by numerous avalanches on north aspects in the area at the time, there is no safe zone, perceived or objective, there is no correct way to hike, there is no satisfying conclusion in a pit, there is no acceptable group size. 

 

Much backcountry travel in Colorado is gonna happen when things are rated considerable or moderate. I agree that these guys were assuming more risk given the conditions than many of us here would be comfortable with, but jesus. Nothing in life is as black and white as people seem to want to think this is.

post #64 of 90

Article in Denver Post about the victims. Very sad.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_23092683/five-victims-colorado-avalanche-led-and-inspired-others?source=rss

 

Joe Timlin was quite familiar with the area:

 

Quote:
When Joe Timlin was a student at Highlands Ranch High School, he and his friends would hitchhike up Loveland Pass and jump out at the last switchback. They would hike the short walk into the Sheep Creek drainage below Mount Sniktau and ride down to the Loveland Valley ski area. They would stop and build jumps in the snow and practice their tricks. On Saturday, the 32-year-old from Gypsum died in the same spot.

 

Area of slide:

https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/acc_report.php?acc_id=505&accfm=rep

 

https://avalanche.state.co.us/media/full/acc_505_5095.jpg

 

 

Quote: from Wild Snow discussion:

 

Chris April 24th, 2013 2:31 am

http://www.wildsnow.com/9930/sheep-creek-avalanche-loveland-colorado/

I was up on Loveland Pass. :( I skied both days, and wrote about this event. I was up there, apparently about 4 hours after Alpine recovered the last person, and I took many pictures and a video. This was a gut check for me, no ego left really. I was up on Professor before going over, with some (unnamed) mountain rescue folks, to walk across the debris path. I have seen plenty of avys, but this one dropped my jaw. This was a powerful slab avalanche. Some of the slabs were the size of cargo vans or a small bus. There were busted trees inside the debris field. I have pictures with arrows drawn for scale. I walked down into the 17ft hole where a victim was recovered. I plan to take prayer flags back to that area as a gesture of respect. Here is my take Lou, they were more prepared with their avylungs, beacons, buddies, and flotation systems than I was. Why the long post.
I walked out of there and drove back over the pass toward A-basin and looked at the 20ft overhangs on the lee side of Professor, sitting over a heavily loaded slope, as well. As I drove down the bend I knew my car would not survive a natural release from that slope either. Some aspects, at least right now, are ‘very’ dangerous. I plan to ski for awhile where I know they blast the crap out of slopes, the snow in bounds is pretty amazing, and you cannot beat the beach in spring. The only criticism I have after being up there is for myself, in not knowing more, not about them.
post #65 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by rachelv View Post

Much backcountry travel in Colorado is gonna happen when things are rated considerable or moderate..

 

And we shouldn't be surprised when there are large slides.  

post #66 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post


There are so many errors here, I can't figure where to start clarifying. The general buzz around the campfire is pretty conclusive.

Once you go out in those conditions, considerable or moderate clearly demonstrated by numerous avalanches on north aspects in the area at the time, there is no safe zone, perceived or objective, there is no correct way to hike, there is no satisfying conclusion in a pit, there is no acceptable group size. Picture the whole region, under tension, just hanging there waiting for the slightest vibration or one cut into the slab to release the tension and give in to gravity.

 

This is total claptrap unless you mean to say that there is always risk when conditions are considerable.  Yet if that's what you intended, then there is always risk as there is always a risk of avalanche no matter what the conditions are rated (unless the snow is melted out!). 

 

Mike

post #67 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

And that said ^^, I still personally wouldn't have gone anywhere near a N or NE aspect over the weekend, after that Vail Pass slide and after seeing all the natural slides I saw on Friday.  ( But I have a very low risk tolerance. So low that I hardly tour in my own home state at all.)

In addition, the forecast was considerable, but not everywhere. Most places it was moderate. I think considerable was for near or above treeline, on SE-NEaspects or something like that.

The Vail Pass slide.



post #68 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post


The Vail Pass slide.



 

The Vail Pass slide freaks me out even more than the Loveland Pass slide.  Here's why:

 

McCarron had been riding at Vail Pass all day with friends Josh Wolf and James Brown, taking turns shuttling on a snowmobile, with one guy driving and the other two lapping what is known as Avalanche Bowl for obvious reasons..... The crew and their friends had been riding the same line for five days straight and had taken numerous laps on it last Thursday—this was to be their final run of the day.  

 

From: http://business.transworld.net/127669/features/memorial-service-for-vail-pass-avalanche-victim-backcountry-legend-mark-mccarron-this-thursday/

 

I'm very, very conservative and don't do much backcountry, so I don't think I would have been anywhere near the Loveland Pass slide.  But, I wouldn't hesitate to ski where the Vail Pass slide happened after they've been on it for five days.  Five days!!!  

 

Then, last run of the fifth the day the entire mountain comes down on them.  Scares the crap out of me.  I don't know what to trust, including inbounds after the Zuma slide this year and the Pali death in 2005.


Edited by tball - 4/24/13 at 1:09pm
post #69 of 90
post #70 of 90
^^^^Wow. That was quite a read.
post #71 of 90

"They decided to spread out with approximately 50 feet between people as they crossed below the north-facing slopes, and head for a small stand of trees on a small knoll on the far (northeast) side of the open slopes. The first two members in the group had reached the small stand of trees, with the other 4 group members close behind, when they felt a large collapse and heard a whumpf. It took several seconds for the crack to propagate uphill and release the deep slab. In those several seconds, they all ran for the far end of the slope and towards the small stand of trees."

 

That sounds horrifying seeing the whole thing come down at you from below.

post #72 of 90
Wow 800 ft wide!
Quote:
It is easy to underestimate the consequences of getting caught in a deep-persistent slab avalanche, because these slides are often much bigger than most of the avalanches witnessed by backcountry recreationalists. Deep-persistent slabs do not form every year, like storm and wind slab avalanches.

The only effective travel technique for this avalanche problem is to avoid areas where deep slabs might release, or if the risk is deemed acceptable, expose a single group member to the danger. Spreading out often does not mitigate the risk to the group because these avalanches are always large and destructive
https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/acc_report.php?accfm=inv&acc_id=505&view=public
post #73 of 90

Lou Dawson has commented on the issue of the alpha angle which is a method of attempting to discern how far an avalanche might run.  He says a conservative figure to use is 22%.  After the CAIC report was posted, he talked with a CAIC staff member and asked what the alpha angle was where the folk were:  24%.  Looks like they were attempting to skirt the bottom of the slide path, but were a bit too close, although I'm not sure I could tell the difference between 22 and 24%.

 

Mike

post #74 of 90

WildSnow has an annotated version of the CAIC report here:

http://www.wildsnow.com/9962/caic-sheep-creek-loveland-avalanche-report-annotated/

 

Lou Dawson's bluntness tends to rub me the wrong way a lot, but I think this is very measured and respectful.

post #75 of 90
^^^^Definitely worth reading, including the comments.
post #76 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by rachelv View Post

WildSnow has an annotated version of the CAIC report here:

http://www.wildsnow.com/9962/caic-sheep-creek-loveland-avalanche-report-annotated/

 

Lou Dawson's bluntness tends to rub me the wrong way a lot, but I think this is very measured and respectful.

 

That annoted report and the rest of the discussion on the other Sheep Creek thread on Wild Snow has some great information.

I think one of the most surprising things is that they triggered the avalanche from roughly 1,000 feet away. That's a long way to propagate.It was also huge and the "island of safety" stand of trees was not.

There also is probably something to the illusory cloak of safety supplied by being in a group that's at an avalanche event and just had a presentation on avalanche conditions and safety the previous day.

 

Some takeaways:

: Groups of 3+ inherently dangerous

  Know alpha angle of where you are. Stay in the less than alpha of 22 degrees zone from top of slope.

  CAC Avaluator Card System is simple and effective (Canadian Avalanche Center)

  Brain is still most important piece of safety gear. Also the most easily modified for good or bad.

 

 

Some quotes from the Wild Snow discussion:

 

 

 

Robert April 24th, 2013 6:27 pm

 

 

Quote:

Reading the CAIC report, it does seem like there is a considerable amount of overhang risk. The island of safety seemed largely non-existent. How filled in was the gulley? From the report it appears that two of the deaths and the survivor were all in the island of safety but if they had continued another 50′ or so into more favourable terrain they would not have been caught? It’s hard to tell from Figures 5 and 14 just how close they were. The report leaves a number of questions unanswered such as this, where the group was planning on skiing, and what was the overhang risk from the slope on the opposite side of the gulley?

 

Here’s what the CAC’s Avaluator 2 card has to say:

Avalanche Conditions:


Regional Danger Rating Considerable or Higher? Yes, +1 point
Persistent Avalanche Problems? Yes, +1 point
Evidence of Slab Avalanches in the Area? Yes, +1 point
Signs of Instability, such as whumpfing? Unknown, 0 points
Recent Loading of the snowpack within 48 hours? No, but lots of snow and wind in last 96 hours — 0.5 points to be conservative.
Critical Warming, to near 0^C? No, 0 points

 

Terrain Characteristics:


Slope Steepness: 41 degrees, +2 points
Terrain Traps: Yes, gully, +1 point
Slope Shape, convex or unsupported: No, 0 points
Forest density, i.e. anchoring: No anchors, +1 point

 

Total Avalanche Conditions score: 3.5 points
Total Terrain Characteristics score: 4 points


Avaluator 2 says: Travel not recommended (red)

 

Using a plastic card to make your decisions for you has issues, but in this case would have been illuminating. A properly scared newbie who knows he knows nothing about avalanche hazard would probably not have gone into that situation.

 

Canadian Avalanche Center, CAC:http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/about/overview

 

NEW - Avaluator v2.0


The new Avaluator 2.0 is the next generation of our innovative approach to avalanche safety for backcountry users. The Avaluator will help you identify and interpret the most important weather and terrain observations, and guide you through to an informed decision.  The checklists were derived from an extensive survey of Canadian avalanche professionals with the goal of duplicating, as much as possible, the assessment expertise of the professional community. As with the original, our new Avaluator 2.0 will provide you with a consistent, cautious approach for trip planning and terrain evaluation. We hope to see the new Avaluator 2.0 in your hands this winter!

 

$12.00 plus tax and shipping

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/store/books


 

 

 

 

 

Lou Dawson April 24th, 2013 5:40 pm

 

Quote:

SR, when I speak of avy education aspects to this, I’m referring to the decision making and judgement part of what is taught, or attempted to be taught anyway… In my opinion formal avalanche education has always been lacking in this area. It’s gotten better, way better in some cases. But still, it’s almost like what’s really needed is three hours of “how to identify an avalanche slope and read a CAIC forecast” then 60 hours of decision making tests, simulations, and behavior modification exercises. In my experience, a lot of people just don’t get it.

Lou

 

 

 Lou Dawson April 25th, 2013 7:10 am

      Quote:

One other thing to add before I race out of here for a few hours: I’d like to commend all of you for having the obvious experience and knowledge to not focus on airbags, Avalungs, and snowpits. The human factor and decision making were the nut causes of this accident.. Snowpit was not important, airbags would have done nothing, and while perhaps Avalung use would have saved someone that’s a remote factor at this point in time, in terms of discussion. And look at how useless beacons were other than for fulfilling a social contract and helping with a speedy recovery…

So again, thanks for focusing on what is important — the human brain.

Lou

 

post #77 of 90
post #78 of 90
Here is some more from Lou Dawson and others at WildSnow.com:

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/
post #79 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by MastersRacer View Post

Here is some more from Lou Dawson and others at WildSnow.com:

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/

 

Well if you only read one thing so far, it should be that link and discussion with pictures.

In terms of the sidecountry debate, I guess this is it. Step out of the other world of being in a car with heat and music, go ten feet and face grave danger.

 

Quote:

Lou Dawson

(bold added)

While we of course can not know the final truth, I’d caution any readers to not dismiss this as normal human error. Instead, what we appear to have had is some kind of delusional event wherein a group of six backcountry skiers and snowboarders, the majority of whom were well versed in avalanche safety, ignored or forgot basic safety protocols.

 

How do I assume this? I’m here to tell you that when you step out of your car at the Sheep Creek parking, ten feet later you are walking under a deadly avalanche path that killed several people in 1948. A slope that is northeast facing, obviously wind loaded, drops into a tree studded terrain trap, and averages 31 degrees steep. According to CAIC the perfect slope for self immolation on April 20th 2013, the day five men killed.

Only this isn’t where last week’s group died.

 

Somehow the six made it through the 200 yards of deadly approach trail, only to make the odd decision to continue breaking trail on the toe of a large and again deadly avalanche path. This when by simply deviating twenty or thirty feet northeast from their course and making a very short crossing of the lower avalanche path toe, they could have climbed up the drainage via a route that was perfectly safe during NE instability of the type that existed during their day. This is a route where they might have stood and watched in awe as they triggered the same avalanche that would have otherwise ended up killing them. In my opinion, if the group had taken this route it is likely they’d all still be alive.

 

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/

 

Quote:
  1. Lou Dawson April 26th, 2013 10:49 am

    Colin, CAIC source. Even if the 1948 slide accident never occurred, it is an avalanche slope and quite dangerous as it would knock you down into a timbered terrain trap. At the time of our site visit I didn’t know about the 1948 accident, and I was still scared to cross under the slope on the access traverse. The whole situation is a fear fest if you know what you’re looking at. Lou

 

post #80 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by MastersRacer View Post

Here is some more from Lou Dawson and others at WildSnow.com:

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/


Thanks for post MasterRacer    Lengthy Discussion here between Lou & others is most excellent.

A must read.

post #81 of 90
post #82 of 90

I usually always climb alone...

post #83 of 90
Quote:

In 2004, avalanche researcher Ian McCammon released a seminal study " Heuristic Traps in Recreational Avalanche Accidents: Evidence and Implications," in which he looked at 715 U.S. avalanche accidents from 1972 to 2003. The study found that people traveling alone and parties of six to 10 exposed themselves to significantly more hazard than groups of two, three or four.

post #84 of 90

 

In case anyone hasn't seen the NYT piece on the Tunnel Creek avalanche discussed in the Denver Post story, it's a must read:

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/

 

It's a remarkable piece that gives light to what a number skiers were thinking and their decision making prior to the incident.   That's something we'll never know about the Loveland Pass slide, unfortunately, since there was only one survivor.  Set some time aside to read it.  It's long, but well worth the time.

 

Discussion thread: http://www.epicski.com/t/116146/nyt-article-on-the-stevens-pass-avy

post #85 of 90

^^ There were already a couple of long threads about that avalanche and the NY Times article back when it first came out.  Guy who wrote it won a much-deserved Pulitzer.

post #86 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Racer View Post

I usually always climb alone...

I would have to say that when alone I tend to pick a safer route and take a little extra precaution, when skiing in the BC.    As compared to skiing with others, when the pack mentality of (well they all just did it so it must be safe) comes into play.   Although doing anything in the BC alone begs for problems, I really do enjoy it... 

post #87 of 90

Not sure if this has been posted yet, but here's some interesting info on the event at Loveland Pass

 

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/

post #88 of 90

An article by Backcountry Magazine on the 2nd anniversary of this tragedy. 

 

The Loveland Five - Five Reasons to Live

post #89 of 90

I only knew one of those guys. Ian. Whenever I do a certain mountain bike ride in Stowe I see Ian sitting on the moss fixing his chain. He was a good shit, I can only imagine how much the people he really touched must miss him, not to mention the other guys.

post #90 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
 

I only knew one of those guys. Ian. Whenever I do a certain mountain bike ride in Stowe I see Ian sitting on the moss fixing his chain. He was a good shit, I can only imagine how much the people he really touched must miss him, not to mention the other guys.


After reading that, I want some of his mom's Vermont Maple Fudge

Quote:

He was so “on” all the time I’d get worn down trying to keep pace, whether he was setting a skintrack or ranting for hours about his latest invention. Like “Mother Fudgers,” a snack bar he’d concocted of his mom’s homemade Vermont Maple Fudge and the fresh peanut butter Elizabeth, his fiancé, churned out. I friggin’ miss those things.

 
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