Around 11am on January 28, 2012 a large avalanche took the life of a snowboarder in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
The party of 3 had skinned up the Argenta avalanche path in route to Kessler Peak. They began to descend down the western face of Kessler Peak. The victim was the first person to drop in, where according to reports, he instantly triggered a 2′-3′ thick hard slab, 1000′ wide that released on a layer of faceted snow. From there, he was caught and carried down approximately 2400′ vertically where he was fully buried.
His two partners then began a search, and found and dug out their friend from under 3′ of snow. Shortly after, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue with dogs assisted by Wasatch Powderbird Guides arrived on the scene to assist.
Our condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish them the best in this time of tragedy.
This fatality is the 9th reported avalanche death this season.
Out of the last 30 reported avalanches in the Salt Lake City area, about half have occurred in Big Cottonwood. Also, the majority of reported avalanches from the recent storm and after have been releasing on buried facets and depth hoar. At the time of the incident the avalanche danger rating for a slope of 10,000 feet and NW facing was rated as CONSIDERABLE for deep slab avalanches.
From the avalanche advisory posted by the Utah Avalanche Center at 7am the day of the accident.
“It’s gonna be one of those days – Bluebird, light wind, 5 star powder (for this year anyway). Truth be told, it’s also days like these where we see avalanche accidents. Discipline, self-denial – these are things we not only aspire to – it’s what keeps us alive in conditions like these. Even – perhaps especially – if you see other tracks on the slope. Or that others are getting away with it. It has applications in other parts of our lives as well.”
If you do venture into the backcountry, play it safe. In the last week there have been several near death avalanches in the area. Before you leave each morning check the weather report, snow report, and most importantly check the Avalanche Forecast. Even with the reports in your head, get educated and check the snowpack on the slope.
By Kyler Roush
I would like to add to Kyler’s report an exchange between a wise old ski patroller and an aspiring young backcountry freerider in an Avalanche I course I was attending 2 years ago.
Freerider: “So does that mean that orange and yellow days are good to go?”
Wise Old Ski Patroller: “Orange and Yellow mean Considerable and Moderate. Would you walk into a bar if there was a Considerable or Moderate chance that you would get stabbed to death inside?”
Please keep this in mind before traveling in the backcountry this year. Many lives have already been lost and there is a long season ahead still…