The loss of our close friend and skiing pal, Kip Garre, is really starting to sink in, and it sucks. Kip lived a life of passion and adventure on a level that few humans ever will. Thank you for the inspiration Kip. You will be deeply missed.
Powdermag.com spoke with Robb Gaffney who shed some light on the tragic events that took the life of our good friend Kip Garre and his girlfriend Allison Kreutzen.
Powder.com just reached Robb Gaffney, one of Garre and Kreutzen’s friends from Squaw who was involved in today’s SAR operation. Gaffney provided details on the incident:
“Three days ago Kip and Allison went down to ski the Split Couloir on Split Mountain. They slept and then went out early the next morning [Tuesday]. Usually at the end of a big day, they’ll call and share the details and let people know it went OK,” Gaffney said. “But nobody had heard from them, so yesterday Dan Molnar drove up to trailhead and found their car with Allison’s dog still in it. That was pretty alarming, because it’s a day trip and they didn’t bring gear with them for over-nighting.”
“Yesterday was an organizational day to get the rescue mission going, so about five of us from Tahoe” — John Morrison, Emily Turner, Jesse Bushey and Glen Poulsen and Gaffney — “got together and drove down to assist search and rescue today. We skinned up and approaching the couloir you couldn’t see a whole lot, just a bit of debris. But the scale is pretty large, so what at first looked like a bit of sluff was actually a big slide.”
“Then we saw a ski, then, partially, a body. It wasn’t a deep debris pile, five to six feet deep, but it came from the east-facing couloir, from about two-thirds of the way up the couloir. It appeared that they were probably climbing the couloir when the avalanche hit from above, and it looked like a pretty powerful avalanche.”
“Each of them was partially buried—Kip a little bit more so, while Allison had been ejected to the side. We were able to dig them out and all the property, probably over more than a thousand vertical feet down the path, and marked all that. Then we waited for search and rescue to come. … We got them down as far as we could, but the helicopter couldn’t fly in today, so maybe it’ll be tomorrow or the next day that they’re able to get their bodies out, when the winds are supposed to calm down.”
The friends rescue crew also coordinated with pilot Jim Morrison, the brother of John Morrison, who was on the ground team; Jim Morrison, with Jim Zeller riding along as a spotter, flew a plane out of Truckee this morning in order to scan the search area from the air, Gaffney said. Through cell phones and radios, the ground crew was able to communicate with Morrison and Zeller as well as a helicopter from the California Highway Patrol. Volunteers from the Inyo County Search and Rescue Team and Inyo County Sheriff’s Office also participated in the SAR mission.
“By the time we had all the organization and coordination with the different agencies, we were underway from the trailhead at 7:30 or 8,” Gaffney said. “And we were feeling a little anxious. We wanted to be out much earlier than that. It probably took us two-and-a-half hours to get to the bottom of the couloir, and we were going pretty fast. But those guys meant so much to us, so sitting at home knowing there was a rescue going on would’ve been way more challenging than being there today.”
Gaffney said it was difficult to find the scene as they did. “Kip’s been a part of our life for a long time in Squaw and he’s just this special guy who everyone loves. And a little more than a year ago, he started dating Allison. She’d just moved out from Telluride and she was just a gem. Everyone loved her, and loved them as a couple. So it was just horrible to come up on this debris pile and see this ski there,” he said.
“They were just people who enriched our lives. It sounds cliché, but it’s true, especially within the tight-knit Tahoe backcountry community. Definitely a big loss, and the emotions came in waves throughout the day. We had a lot to take care of, so you sort of had to keep your chin up and do what you needed to do. But every once and a while a wave would just come and hit you.” — Tim Mutrie