TraditionalMountaineering Logo - representing the shared 
companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links | Search

  Search this site!
Read more:

Avalanche overtakes snowshoers on an access road

Mt Baker Snowshoer Accident
Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
USDA Forest Service
12 December 2003

Date: Avalanche occurred on the morning of 12/12/2003 (~ 1039-1100 AM PST), recoveries on the morning of 12/13/2003.
Location: Near Artist’s Point switchback near the Mt Baker ski area
Who: 3 completely buried, 2 recovered alive (after ~24 hour burial), 1 fatality
State: WA
Activity: snowshoe

Preliminary Report:

The following information was obtained from Mt Baker ski area personnel. A party of 3 snowshoers (1 man, 2 women) departed for Artist's Point on Friday morning, 12 December 2003. Near the last switch back on the Artist Point Access Road at about 4900 feet, they were all buried by a natural or triggered soft slab avalanche. The slide released from a 30-35 degree, north aspect slope, with the fracture estimated at 18-24 inches. By the next (Saturday) morning the man was able make a hole in the snow with his hand and began yelling for help. A passing party of skiers heard him, dug him out, and returned him to the ski area. A rescue party returned to the site and probe persons found the first woman, who had perished. A probe person then accidentally stepped into the air pocket of the second woman who was miraculously alive. The man and the woman each survived about 24 hours or more of burial.

Other Ancillary Information:
It is conjectured that the snow topography prior to the event may have given the survivors their second chance. In some instances, the wind swirling around this section of highway has been known to create a wind loaded lip and overhang, which can result in a 4 to 5 ft wall/cornice. It is possible that as the avalanche carried the victims toward the wall and overhang that it swept the survivors into a position in which they were under the overhang or a collapsed portion of it and therefore had access to a hole or air pocket beneath the overhang. It is evident that the male had enough mobility to slowly dig his way toward the surface and apparently, the second person recovered alive had enough mobility to get into her backpack and eat some candy or bars, as wrappings were found near her when she was uncovered. This extra food may have contributed to her live recovery as she was found hypothermic with a body temperature of 88 degrees.

Report compiled by Garth Ferber and Mark Moore





Read more . . .

Winter mountaineering hazards - streams and lakes
Is long distance backpacking part of "traditional mountaineering"?
How long is the traditional alpine mountaineering ice axe?
What about climbing Mt. Hood?
What is a good personal description of the south side route on Mount Hood?
What should I know about travel over hard snow and ice?
How can I learn to self belay and ice axe arrest?   6 pdf pages  
What should I know about snow caves?
What should I know about climbing Aconcagua?

Young Bend man dies in back county avalanche
What is an avalanche cord?
Avalanche training courses - understanding avalanche risk
How is avalanche risk described and rated by the professionals?    pdf table 
How can I avoid dying in an avalanche?
Known avalanche slopes near Bend, OR?
What is a PLB?
Can I avoid avalanche risk with good gear and seminars?   pdf file

Climbers swept by avalanche while descending North Sister's Thayer Glacier Snowfield
Three personal experiences with avalanches
Mount Hood avalanche proves fatal for members of climbing group
Avalanche overtakes adventurous snowshoers in their tent
Avalanche overtakes experienced climbers on Mt. Rainier's Liberty Ridge
Avalanche overtakes snowshoers on an access road
Snowshoer dies in backcountry avalanche in Washington State
Young Bend man dies in remote backcountry avalanche
Recent deaths cause concern over avalanche beacons
Skilled member of The Mountaineers killed in avalanche
Basic Responsibilities of the cross country skier
Avalanche avoidance a practical approach to avalanche safety
Tumalo Mountain a wintertime treat
Fatal Mount Hood avalanche described by Climbing Ranger

Why do you like GAB crampons for traditional mountaineering?
What should I know about the new snowshoe trails
What are technical snowshoes?
Which crampons are the best?
What about Boots and Shoes?    

What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?