Rider injured Saturday in avalanche near Vail Pass | SkyHiNews.com

Rider injured Saturday in avalanche near Vail Pass

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Special to the Daily/Honza NavratilA look at the aftermath of Saturday's Uneva Pass slide taken by skier Honza Navratil.
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A human-triggered avalanche on Uneva Peak, near Vail Pass, on Saturday afternoon resulted in waist-deep burial and injury of a rider in a party of four.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reports that the rider was covered for about 10 seconds but swam back to the surface to avoid full burial. Vail Mountain Rescue Group responded to the incident.

Eagle County Sheriff deputy Mark Pons said the rescue group responded with two teams totaling 12 rescue members and one Forest Service official. Teams skinned into the site at about 5 p.m. to retrieve the party, three of whom were able to leave on their own and the fourth was evacuated using a sled, Pons said. Adverse conditions made it impossible to use a helicopter for the rescue.

“The victim was conscious and breathing,” Pons said about her condition, adding that it appeared there were lower body injuries. “It was non-life threatening conditions to everyone’s knowledge.”

The rescue was complete by 9 p.m.

The event caused two other slides in the area, which cleared the Uneva Peak bowl. The slides broke at roughly 3 feet deep and were on slopes facing north to northwest at about 12,000 feet.

The avalanche center reports that, on Friday, a rider triggered a slide in the “Y” Chute – a west-southwest aspect near tree line – on the west side of the Tenmile Range, and on Thursday, skiers remotely triggered a small eastern-facing slab near tree line, also on the Tenmile Range. Hoosier Pass also recently saw two “good-sized” hardslab slides on east and southeast aspects near and above tree line.

Despite avalanche danger in the area being reduced to “moderate” on all areas near and above tree line and “low” below tree line by the CAIC, “triggering a hard slab avalanche is possible on steep slopes, and the resulting avalanche could be large and dangerous,” the center’s website states, adding that any windloaded slope should be treated as precarious, no matter the elevation.

“People need to be over vigilant when enjoying our mountains,” Pons said.

January has seen the most human-triggered slides or slides with human involvement this season – seven.

In early January, a skier was caught and carried in a slide on Mount Yale in the Collegiate Peaks, with no rescue necessary. In mid-January, a snowboarder died with a dog near Berthoud Pass, and at about the same time, ice climbers in nearby Officer’s Gulch were caught and carried with a slide but were able to self rescue, a spokesman with Summit County Rescue Group said.

One climber was mostly protected, but the belayer was caught and swept from his non-anchored stance, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report states. Not able to hold the belay break, the belayer slid about 30 feet before a knot in the rope stopped him from being carried away and releasing the climber. Snow “pummeled” the belayer for about 10 seconds before coming to rest on the recreation path about 400 to 500 feet below the climbers. Neither was injured or buried as the top-rope anchor held both individuals weights.

The avalanche center’s current threat report states that winds this last month have developed a “complicated, variable stack of strong, hard slabs separated by persistent weak layers.” Strong slabs may not indicate instability until they break apart. Tests will show moderate to strong results, but failures will be clean and fast.

“Hard slabs can be tricky beasts, luring you out with the promise of strength and then avalanching large when you reach the slab margins and break the weak layer,” the report says.

CAIC weather forecast

Snowfall was expected to begin in the Colorado mountains at midnight Sunday increasing into today. It brings a cold northeasterly flow with airflow movements that could cause more snow to fall on the Front Range, the Sawatch Range and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Frigid temperatures are expected Tuesday and Wednesday – highs in the single digits and lows in the negative temperature ranges in Summit County – with snow falling through Wednesday in some areas. Another storm is expected this weekend.


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