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Snowmobiler dies in Paulina Peak avalanche

Avalanche kills snowmobiler near Paulina Peak
January 4, 2010

La Pine man was caught by 200-yards-wide snow slide
From KTVZ.COM news sources

Family and friends of an experienced snowmobile rider from La Pine who killed Saturday afternoon when he was hit by a 200-yards-wide avalanche near Paulina Peak, are speaking out about their grief.

The victim was identified as Wesley Bryan Amos, 28, of La Pine, said sheriff's Lt. Michael Espinoza.

Around 2:30 p.m., the sheriff's office responded to a report of a lone snowmobile rider trapped in the area of Paulina Peak, east of La Pine and south of Paulina Lake, Espinoza said in a news release late Saturday night.

Lori Amos-Williams, Wesley's Mother, says it still doesn't seem like her eldest son is gone.

"They were trying to tell me that this accident, this avalanche, he got caught in it, he didn't make it. I didn't believe them. I really didn't believe them."

Wesley's younger brother, Ronnie, says the two spent the morning his brother died playing video games. Then, Wesley went to lunch with a friend, before heading out on his snowmobile, without telling anyone where he was going.

"He was right here, just a few hours before then, and then he was gone. It seems like just one big nightmare I will wake up from soon."

The avalanche was reported in an area south of the Obsidian flow, in a riding area referred to as "Roller Coaster," Espinoza said.

Information received by 911 dispatchers said the single male snowmobiler rider was seen to have been trapped beneath the snow following an avalanche estimated to be about 200 yards wide, in an area described as a more technical snowmobile riding area, Espinoza said.

Witnesses immediately began trying to find the rider in the area they'd last seen him, Espinoza said. After about 15 to 20 minutes of searching, witnesses not associated with Amos found his body, having been buried beneath the snow, he said.

Sheriff's deputies and Search and Rescue members were responding at the time. Espinoza said 19 volunteer SAR members helped deputies and witnesses identify the rider, and recover his body.

"At this time, there is no information to indicate anyone else being with Amos at the time of this incident," Espinoza said in the news release.

During their investigation, SAR members and deputies made further efforts to assure Amos was the only person trapped in the snow due to the avalanche.

Amos was reported to be an experienced snowmobile rider and to be operating his own machine, the lieutenant said.

The sheriff's office said the tragedy served as a reminder to those who recreate in winter wilderness areas to be extremely cautious of changing conditions, property
equipped, and knowledgeable of the areas where they will be recreating.

Nearly two years ago, a skier from Bend had to be rescued from 7,897-foot Paulina Peak after triggering an avalanche. The slide threw him into a rock wall, injuring his knee. Other skiers said they, too, had set off avalanches on the peak's weather-exposed slopes.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center ( does not forecast avalanche danger in the Central Oregon Cascades, only in areas to the north. But it said there was "considerable" avalanche danger above 5,000 to 6,000 feet in the Mt. Hood area Saturday.

A member of the Central Oregon Avalanche Association ( posted a comment on the story Sunday, offering "deepest heartfelt condolences to the victims' family and friends" after this "extremely tragic event."

The group was formed to organize and further avalanche education and awareness in the area, and the commenter added, "When news like this comes across our radar, we feel like we have failed to move fast enough."

A memorial service is being held in LaPine this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Baird Memorial Chapel. Family members encourage anyone who wants to attend.



Avalanche avoidance is a practical approach to avalanche safety

Avalanche avoidance is a practical approach to avalanche safety and travel in the mountains in the winter and spring. Snow avalanches are complex, natural phenomena that are studied in detail worldwide.

Professional avalanche controllers may be able to assess and maintain the general safety of particular slopes in-bounds of their ski resort, but for backcountry travelers there is a different story.

Backcountry downhill skiers and snowboarders must accept the obvious avalanche dangers of steep snow slopes.  Deaths of professional heli-ski guides and their clients are reported every year. Read more about this risk from the linked experience reports below.

Do snow-riders have a false sense of security based on their limited layman's knowledge from an avalanche class or two and the purchase of expensive gear and electronic equipment?  This question is being asked more and more often.  A wind slab avalanche may be many feet thick – will the typical snow-rider dig to the ground in a ten-foot snow pack? And even if he does will peer pressure and enthusiasm enter into the decision to give it a try?  Is there a cadre of professional ski-resort ski-patrollers available to probe for the injured and entombed party, encased in air-tight "concrete", even just a couple of feet below the surface?

The backcountry traveler: hiker, climber, peak-bagger, snowshoer and nordic skier (and snow-machine driver) can practice simple, common sense Avalanche Avoidance Techniques:

>Is the current general avalanche danger rating Low, Moderate, High or Extreme? No mater what the avalanche hazard, there are avalanche-free areas in the mountains.

>General observations, following the current area avalanche hazard warnings and safe route selection are common sense ways to avoid major risk.

>The safest routes are on the ridge tops and slightly on the windward side, away from any cornices.

>If you cannot travel on the ridges, the next safest route is out in the valley, away from the obvious deposition zones at the bottom of slopes.  Observe old slide paths, recent avalanche activity on slopes with a similar aspect, sounds and cracks, volcanic scree slopes with no features to hold the snow pack.

>If you must cross a potentially dangerous slope, stay high and near the top. If you must ascend or descend a dangerous slope, go straight up or down; do not traverse back and forth, cutting the snow pack. Take advantage of areas of dense timber, ridges and rocky outcrops as islands of safety.

>Keep in mind that most people die under small slides, including roof releases. Recently, two snowshoe travelers in Washington were found days buried in their tent under the snow under the search helicopter-landing zone at the foot of just a small slope.

Learn everything you can about avalanche activity and select the safest routes.  Psychological reliance on expensive gear and gadgets may actually put you in more danger!
--Bob Speik

Note: I was interviewed over the phone by Jeff Mullins of KBND Radio, about avalanche risk. The above was included in a lengthy radio interview that aired at noon on January 18, 2005 and at other times during the day. --Robert Speik




Deschutes National Forest Avalanche Information Notice  02.25.10

"The Deschutes National Forest has terrain that is subject to snow avalanches. In recent years, there has been increasing incidence of winter backcountry users involved in avalanches; some involving fatalities. The Deschutes National Forest does not have an avalanche advisory program to inform recreationists of avalanche danger levels nor do its employees perform snowpack evaluation or avalanche control for the public.
Backcountry users venturing into avalanche terrain should be aware of potential risk and should be skilled and trained at recognizing potential avalanche areas and snowpack conditions and act accordingly. Be responsible for your own safety and that of others around you; perform careful snowpack evaluations, stability tests and make safe route decisions. Avalanche potential can increase with increasing slope angle, snowfall, rain, wind, changing temperatures, other factors and avalanche hazard can escalate in a short time. If you do not have avalanche training, consider sticking to low profile terrain.
Ski/snowboard resorts on the Deschutes do provide a high level of avalanche control on their managed slopes within bounds. Keep in mind that during severe weather events, even these areas may be subject to elevated avalanche conditions.

For more information on avalanche education and safety practices, visit:
the Forest Service National Avalanche Center Avalanche Awareness website at;
Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website at: at:
Central Oregon Avalanche Center at: (DEVELOPING)

Opportunities for Avalanche courses in the Central Oregon area include:
Thank you for your attention to this user safety issue!"


For the Central Oregon Avalanche Association Analysis click here:




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can in part, be mitigated


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