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Mount Moran Avalanche - 1 dead and others injured

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

To begin with, I want to wish good healing to those injured in this avalanche and prayers to the family and friends of Luke. 

This is first and foremost a sad thing, but its also a learning experience


As I read this story I see comments that generate questions for me.  


  • “The group was ascending when a shallow wet slough avalanche released above them,” Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. 
  • Billimoria was able to get out of the slide and then aid his companions until Grand Teton National Park rangers could arrive. Because snow continued to run, Billimoria dragged his friends out of the slide path.
  • Rescuers at the 9,000-foot level on the mountain had to move at one point, Skaggs said, because of “continued avalanche activity” near where they were working.


Admittedly I'm not experienced in backcountry, climbing or avalanche safety.  

Comments about the wet slough, and how Billimoria had to drag his friends out of the slide path as the snow continued to run and the difficulty of the rescuers job because of continued avalanche activity while they were working all make me question if it was wise to be there. 


This is not a beginner climb, so these guys had to be experienced, right? *See description of the area below*

How are these conditions viewed in the backcountry community?  


Keep in mind, I'm not playing the roll of armchair quarterback.  I sincerely am not familiar with that area, the terrain they were on, or the instability of the weather changing and making things unpredictable. 


Every time I get the idea that I want to take a course and get into backcountry, something like this happens and it makes me think that I'm okay without adding this element of risk.



 Some rescuers were flown to the site and others reached the area after boating across Jackson Lake from Colter Bay Marina, Skaggs said. There are no maintained trails to the base of the mountain, which rises to 12,605 feet north of the better known Grand Teton and its mates in the Cathedral Group.
post #2 of 7

Without being there, it's hard to tell whether they should have been there.  Hindsight is 20/20.  We may find out more after more info is released.  


Life is uncertain - people killed in auto accidents, perhaps going to the store during rush hour, maybe "shouldn't have gone out there."


I've been surprised on Mt. Moran by changing conditions.  A few years back my partner and I started climbing the Skillet route at 2 AM in excellent conditions, getting to the top around 9.  While we we enjoying the view things got warmer, and weirder.  It was a fast change from perfect to "Get me out of here!"  Scroll down to the 9th picture:



More detail about the change in conditions:



The Tetons are very tricky mountains, you don't hear much about the many, many the trips that go well, but when one goes bad...

post #3 of 7

Back in the early 80's, a friend and I had just set up camp below the moraine of Skillet Glacier in preparation for a climb the next morning when we heard a low rumble. Looking to the moraine, we saw a cloud of dust indicating a rock slide of some size. An hour or two later, a young man wandered into our camp, confused and a bit scraped up, muttering on about missing his father and brother in the rocks. My climbing buddy helped get him settled and I ran/walked back to the Jenny Lake store (we'd hiked to our camp rather than boat across Jackson Lake). By the time I got to the store, it was early evening and things were closed up. I used a pay phone to contact the GTNP climbing rangers who picked me up. After explaining the situation and our position, the rangers set out by boat from Signal Mountain. I spent the night at their bunkhouse. The next day I watched as a helicopter brought in two young men and the body of their father. They were from Wisconsin I believe, experienced climbers but new to the area, and had been descending from a successful summit of Mt. Moran. As they had made their way toward their camp, they had begun crossing the base of a large couloir when a number of large boulders, possibly from thawing conditions, broke loose and rolled down on top of them, crushing the father. The second brother was more seriously hurt than the one who'd stumbled into our camp, but he was found wandering down the mountain by my friend who had hiked up to see about the others' conditions. He lead this brother back to our camp where he met with the climbing rangers.


The father and his sons had taken every precaution in ascending and descending Mt.Moran, and yet they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, despite all precautions, rocks fall and snow slides. 

post #4 of 7
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
^^^ Wow. Powerful story. Makes me respect Mother Nature even more, especially considering the description of the slide. When something so little becomes so big
post #6 of 7

Mein Gott - Billimoria luck ?? Sad sad story

post #7 of 7
 Trekchick - Every time I get the idea that I want to take a course and get into backcountry, something like this happens and it makes me think that I'm okay without adding this element of risk


Don't let these tragic accidents keep you from enjoying the immense joy and connection to the mountain that backcountry skiing offers.  I had concerns getting into the backcountry myself - I was at Stevens Pass the day 3 lives were lost in the 2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche, I saw some of the people in the morning, and than the line of emergency rescue vehicles lined up in the afternoon.  Although I did not know those that perished very well, they were people I've met and spoken with. I had concerns about the risks of getting into AT skiing, and decided to give it a go during the spring of 2014.  I absolutely love it and it has become a 'lifestyle' now.  I am very risk adverse, and you can enjoy safe alpine touring in the backcountry.  You can choose to stay off of and away from avalanche prone terrain by sticking to less steep slopes, you can avoid high risk days and ski the resort when conditions are too risky. Get good avalanche training, choose to ski the backcountry with those that have  the same level of risk acceptance as you, and always stay within you level of comfort and the risk will be minimized and joy will be maximized.

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