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Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby JROSKA » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:47 pm

RoanMtnMan wrote:I can't say I would have done too much differently. It was not a probable event.


Like others on this forum, I have also wondered how this could happen to veteran backcountry travellers who were very smart, seasoned, and experienced. It doesn't seem like there is an explanation, other than that this was just an extreme and improbable event. They followed the correct procedures, left a reasonable amout of spacing between each other, and gear-wise, could not have been any more prepared. Obviously they knew there was a risk on that slope, but I don't think anybody can anticipate something as big as what occurred up there. We can all try to minimize risk by being prepared and educated, thorough analysis, and using proper gear, but there is a limit to what human beings (and the things that we design) can withstand. I'm not familiar with how to grade avalanches, but this seems comparable to an F-5 tornado or a Category 5 hurricane. Extremely unlikely, and probably not survivable if you get caught in it. We can, and should, prepare for adverse circumstances. But we can't go around living our lives, and basing decisions on, the possibility of the most extreme possible adverse event occurring; otherwise, none of us would ever leave our living rooms.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby rickinco123 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:42 pm

I filled out the Avaluator card below with the data from this incident. I left out the "whumpfing" since that did not occur until the event, this should really be a 6. Notice there are no mitigating factors on this card which can also be viewed as rationalizations. I have had this card for about 6 years, there is an updated version out now I intend to buy. This is perfect for people like me who do not get out into the backcountry often.
Image

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby aussie56 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:42 am

Anyone considered the possibility that climate change may be changing the rules here? From what I have heard it is winter in spring up there right now.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby TallGrass » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:06 am

JROSKA wrote:seems comparable to an F-5 tornado or a Category 5 hurricane. Extremely unlikely, and probably not survivable if you get caught in it.
If you get "caught" in a Cat5 hurricane, you've been not only blissfully ignoring the media for days, but also the sky rolling in.

F-5 tornadoes are quite survivable provided 1. you're not sleeping soundly (even then the sound of a freight train...) and most important 2. you have appropriate shelter nearby (e.g. basement). Most killed are in trailer homes or places sans cellars. Conditions ripe for twisters don't occur in the snap of a finger.

The Loveland Pass avalanche reminds me more of Tunnel Creek for one.
http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/
http://www.greenm3.com/gdcblog/2012/2/23/group-think-most-likely-big-contributor-of-stevens-pass-aval.html
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/20/avalanche-killed-experienced-backcountry-skiers/

Anyone ever do Egg(s)-in-Basket Countermeasures? (Maybe "Boarders-in-Bowl" c.m.?) Like having a couple radios in the back country, first goes down and then stops at a safe point (e.g. high island out of zone), radios up for next, and one by one across until the sweep guy comes down. No radios? Go by line of sight, and zig-zag the zone with each turn (a stop point) being on the highest safest edge reachable, and no clustering on turns (unless needed to maintain visual chain, limit 2) rather one person advances at a time like 3rd going homeplate, THEN 2nd base going to 3rd, THEN 1st can go to 2nd, THEN batter to 1st. Fewer people and less weight on snow, and more first responders should an avy occur. Seems a driving factor is if you get together as a group, and you hike up as a group, you want to ski/board down as a group versus having one guy at a time cross the rickety-bridge sections.

I've seen similar things happen with motorcycle groups where they get caught up in being and riding like a group and either domino or get taken out like bowling pins because they aren't each maintaining their own safety cushion ("oh, a car could merge into our formation..."). I know MANY who absolutely avoid charity rides just for these reasons, like some unknown idiot who thinks it's his right to ride right next to you, can't ride below 5mph without hanging both feet out like training wheels, all while others crowd your 6:00.

Put another way, if you say you're heading down and a friend or the rest of the group says "Cool! I'm coming too!" should your response be any different whether you're on an avy path or atop the Hourglass? Granted, it's a lot harder for "multiple people to rap on the SAME rope" in the 'glass. Who was acting as the Safety, the Anchor, the Belay, the Backup, the Sweeper in this group? After WWI, do troops still try advancing under fire or through mine fields en mass? Or is it one-at-a-time while the rest lend support/cover/observation/etc.? Avy could still rip, but it'd a fraction of the people caught and both 1st response and call-for-backup times would plummet. Yeah, yeah, "safe" doesn't sound "fun" so maybe they need cool bro' terms like "Hey, who's gonna Hawk this while K-bro goes on Point? Everyone make sure to stop and GoPro him." Enthusiasts are going to continue setting off and getting caught in avalanches, so what's the best way groups can cut their losses?
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby mtnfiend » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:24 am

JROSKA wrote:I'm not familiar with how to grade avalanches....


There is a standard in place to characterize a slide. The main attributes are the size of the slide relative to the path (R scale), how destructive is the slide (D scale), and the type of slide (hard slab, soft slab, etc.). Check out S.W.A.G by the american avalanche association (snow, weather, and avalanche observational guidelines). Per the CAIC, this particular slide was rated a R3 D3 hard slab - medium in size relative to the path and able to bury or destroy a car (but probably not large enough to destroy a wood framed house)......so pretty damn large and destructive.
Didn't I ever tell you.....Bumble's bounce!!!

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby ulvetano » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:06 am

Wildsnow.com's two articles and extended commentary offer the most in-depth and useful info out there (IMO), for those wanting to read more.

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/
http://www.wildsnow.com/9962/caic-sheep-creek-loveland-avalanche-report-annotated/

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby dave_navy_VA » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:47 pm

ulvetano wrote:Wildsnow.com's two articles and extended commentary offer the most in-depth and useful info out there (IMO), for those wanting to read more.

http://www.wildsnow.com/9980/sheep-creek-avalanche-site-visit/
http://www.wildsnow.com/9962/caic-sheep-creek-loveland-avalanche-report-annotated/


Thanks very much for that post and heads-up that wildsnow.com had some follow-up. Their after action assessment was one thing but I appreciated the pics and overlays to appreciate the terrain and especially the perspective from the 1948 incident. I have been up there in summer/fall only, so this was helpful to me.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Carl » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:24 am

That site visit by Lou is definitely worth a read

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby dsunwall » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:51 am

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Last edited by dsunwall on Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby ulvetano » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:09 pm

I had hoped to visit the drainage this weekend, with hopes of learning how to avoid such a disaster, but didn't make it. BCA's blog did a visit and shared a powerful picture of one of the recovery sites. The size and power is just amazing to me. And it wasn't even a 'huge' avi. http://www.backcountryaccess.com/2013/04/29/scared-straight-an-invaluable-fatherson-visit-to-the-sheep-creek-avalanche-site/

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby sgladbach » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:03 pm

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Vermont Mike » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:09 pm

I went to high school with Ian Lamphere in Vermont, and while I never knew him well he and his brother (not involved in the accident) seemed like great people. RIP to those killed, and condolences to their families.

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