While avalanche incidents can be some of the most educational moments for backcountry travelers, rarely are the words “college” and “avalanche” mentioned in the same sentence. However, a handful of college students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks just changed that.
According to KTVA Alaska, an avalanche struck nine UAF students and four instructors on Saturday near the Canwell Glacier during what University officials refer to as an11-week introduction to mountaineering course. The goal of that course was to ultimately ascend McCallum Peak but unfortunately, the snowpack had other plans.
Originally, the group had planned to spend the night in the mountains before attempting the peak. However, just three miles from their launch point, the group was engulfed in a slide that poured off a northeastern facing slope.
“Climbers who were free of the snow swiftly assisted those whose faces were covered and were able to uncover their faces and ensure they had an airway within about 20-30 seconds.”– Mark Oldmixion, EARAC
Luckily none of the students or instructors suffered life threatening injuries and they were able to ski out shortly after the incident.
Since the avalanche, UAF administrators are working with Student Health and Counseling Center in order to provide support for dealing with the terrifying experience. Also, the students will later discuss the avalanche and what can be learned from the incident.
Rating – D-2
Slope Angle – 38º
Aspect – Northeast
Elevation – 3500’
Crown – 12” deep and 150’wide
Distance – 150′
Weather- calm and clear, temps in the mid-20’s.