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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 rickinco123 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:21 am

Generally, If I'm in an area where I feel ski cutting is necessary, I've already exceeded my risk tolerance level. To each their own.

I never would have guessed a party of (mostly) experienced members at an avy safety event where they are trying to put safety above all else would intentionally try to traverse a terrain trap below an avalanche slope by skirting the runout area, during "considerable" avy conditions after several weeks of combined snow and wind events. There was some psychology at work here that may never be understood.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Dave B » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:48 am

rickinco123 wrote:I never would have guessed a party of (mostly) experienced members at an avy safety event where they are trying to put safety above all else would intentionally try to traverse a terrain trap below an avalanche slope by skirting the runout area, during "considerable" avy conditions after several weeks of combined snow and wind events. There was some psychology at work here that may never be understood.


I've also been trying to wrap my head around how so many experienced people could make this mistake.

I think the problem lies more in the fact that they weren't trying to ski the slope as much as traverse it. These deep slabs can be incredibly hard to trigger and the CAIC often refers to them as "low probability with high consequence." I think it's quite common to remotely trigger surface slabs, whether they're fresh storm slabs or recent wind loading, because they're on the surface. I would imagine the idea of remotely triggering a large deep persistent slab, from below, was considered to be a minimum probability (although the CAIC report did state they spread out intentionally while traversing the slope).

It's important to note that I am simply speculating, however. As horrible a situation as this is it also serves as an important lesson for all whom travel in the backcountry and I think the continued dialog and (somewhat) improved understanding of avalanche dynamics are the one positive to come out of such a grave situation.
"There is no cheating in climbing, only lying." - Semi-Rad

Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Nelson » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:17 pm

I ski cut almost everything.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby sgladbach » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:34 pm

I hope this thread veers more toward a one that is respectful of the survivor, the familes and friends of all those traumitized.

Useful analysis can not be accomplished by a "discussion" in this format. I'm certain that the scenario will be a significant part of future Avy classes or textbooks after the experts have gone through the data.

Now is the time to be vigilant with the lessons we've already been taught as a respectful acknowledgement that good men, loving fathers, family members, and friends have passed.
Last edited by sgladbach on Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:03 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby mtnfiend » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:23 pm

It's unfortunate that what they thought was a safe zone turned out to not be that safe for the size of slide that was released - This will definitely make me reevaluate what I consider safe zones on future trips into the BC. I wonder what the outcome would have been had the safe zone been another 20 feet into the trees? Or had they decided to traverse straight across the gulley to the more west facing terrain instead of basically paralleling the gully?

Nelson wrote:I ski cut almost everything.


Not to be a total jerk, but you do know how ridiculous that makes you sound, right?
Didn't I ever tell you.....Bumble's bounce!!!

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby rickinco123 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:30 pm

Comment Removed.
Last edited by rickinco123 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby ameristrat » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:46 pm

rickinco123 wrote:Hopefully you feel better about yourself now.



????? A little Passive-Aggressive there?

Certainly, there is nothing self centered about trying to learn from an accident. I think the point here is that there is a difference between a constructive discussion to learn to be more safe and an insensitive critique of five experienced men who passed away in a terrible accident.

Unfortunately, it seems like whenever these things happen, this site gravitates toward the latter.
You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. - Rene Daumal

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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Dave B » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:32 pm

I certainly hope my comment didn't come across as accusatory or disrespectful, I truly am interested to know the thought process that led to this incident. If that was they way it was taken, my deepest apologies. I have nothing but respect for the five that died and am very sad for those they left behind.
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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby rickinco123 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:11 pm

Dave B wrote:
I've also been trying to wrap my head around how so many experienced people could make this mistake.

I think the problem lies more in the fact that they weren't trying to ski the slope as much as traverse it.


From poking around the web, 2 other boarders came up and avoided that trapment area altogether, they were some of the early rescuers. Coming in from the top of the pass is also an obvious option. They were already aware of the danger present with their chosen path which is evident by their decision to spread out and to agree on a safe zone. Hopefully we can get more information from the survivor about the decision making process that led them to try and skirt the boundaries of the runout path instead of take other options. This was an avalanche safety event and they did not chose to take the safest path. I think being so close to the road may have played a negative influence on their thought process.

Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby Bean » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:21 pm

rickinco123 wrote: Hopefully we can get more information from the survivor about the decision making process that led them to try and skirt the boundaries of the runout path instead of take other options. This was an avalanche safety event and they did not chose to take the safest path.


Just about anyone who has spent time in the backcountry has done exactly what they did, and got lucky. I know I have, and I'm one of the more conservative backcountry tourers out there. I truly hope that many will learn from this tragedy - I certainly have.
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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby RoanMtnMan » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:00 pm

Bean wrote:Just about anyone who has spent time in the backcountry has done exactly what they did, and got lucky. I know I have, and I'm one of the more conservative backcountry tourers out there. I truly hope that many will learn from this tragedy - I certainly have.


I spent some time alone at the Sheep Creek site yesterday and reflected on my likely thought process had I been with the group. I can't say I would have done too much differently. It was not a probable event. The tendency is to pick out small things after a tragedy that make us feel like it will be less likely to happen to us. The reality is that we will all continue to make a variety of mistakes, and the smallest one in the backcountry can have huge consequences. The only avenue to completely learn your way out of mountain risk is to learn to stay at home.
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Re: Five killed in Loveland Pass Avalanche

Postby vardo » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:39 pm

I believe that events planned on a far out date in which no one knows what the conditions will be and inviting people who are not locals and the planned activity is backcountry skiing and snowboarding is just a bad idea. how did that snowboarding comp in Montezuma basin work out last year?

the outdoor sports culture is such a scene now, expect more of this. Mixing your social life and extreme sports is dangerous.

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is an anomaly compared to other mountaineering activities in that you can get lucky for a REaaaallllllly long time, all the while you think you are becoming experienced...

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