Peak(s):  "Lackawanna"  -  13,823 feet
PT 13,660 B  -  13,660 feet
Date Posted:  04/20/2021
Date Climbed:   04/19/2021
Author:  DrSluice
 Triggered an avalanche and lost my boots   

$100.00 reward for my hiking boots (Leadville). Lost at the top of the South Gully where the slope shallows on the ridge that attaches to Lackawanna from the South West. Lost them when we triggered an avalanche in the couloir that made it impossible to retrieve them. They are black leather Zamberlan hiking boots that are ankle high with Vibram soles, and should be tied together.

We started from the highway bushwhacking up a couple hundred feet through the avy runout till we could get onto snow in the gully. Rough going through the broken, bent and downed trees. The gully held older avalanche debris that made for fun hiking. Part of the party skinned up this but eventually transitioned to crampons and ice axes. The couloir proper was a great climb but steep, with a maximum angle of 37 degrees. For us on April 19, 2021 the snow was firm with a softer layer of fresh windblown snow on top. At the top of the couloir we exited via a rocky slope east of the trough, a decision we would later realize may have prevented a catastrophe. On the summit ridge of Lackawanna we stashed our skis at the end of the snowfield and continued about 10 minutes to the peak.

From the summit of Lackawanna we traversed the ridge north to visit Unnamed 13,660 B. The traverse is 1 mile with about 500 feet of gain. The ridge is largely wide with a narrower section just before the summit of 660 B. With the snow conditions we had there was a large cornice on the north side of the ridge, we hiked to a safe vantage point to look at the cornice. We decided it would be safe to cross the ridge on the south side giving the cornice a wide berth. The summit of 660 B is small and held a big cornice on the north east side above a huge cliff. Be careful on this summit any time of year. After bagging the peak we went back along the ridge to Lackawanna.

AVALANCHE! From the summit we hiked down rocky slopes to where we had stashed our ski equipment. After transitioning and having a conversation about safety we made a couple of turns, stopping above the rocky slope we had ascended at the top of the couloir. As the first skier made a move to enter the couloir next to the rocks we had climbed up an avalanche was triggered below us. The wind slab that fell was 5 inches deep by 400 feet long and slid down the trough of the gully more than 1,000 feet in about 25 seconds. After moving away from the crown (and leaving my boots behind) we watched the avalanche descend and waited for any other snow to luff off. When we were ready to ski we entered from the side of the path and skied the middle, stopping in safe spots to wave skiers on one at a time. We skied down the avalanche debris, past the terminus of the slide and down to the lower part of the gully. Although nothing else happened during this part it was by far the scariest ski of my life. Our team handled the situation well - though we were all undeniably shaken. At the bottom of the gully we picked our way down the older avalanche debris until we could exit the snow and bushwhacked back to the highway.

In all: 9.5 hours, 4,135 feet, 6.3 miles

Red is the path we took. Blue is the approximate path of the avalanche. Green is where my boots were left.


Older avy debris at the bottom of the gully

Middle of the couloir

Top of the couloir, we climbed up the rocks. the slope to the left avalanched.

Summit of Lackawanna

UN 660 B with large cornice on the ridge

Crown of the avalanche

Middle of the avalanche

Foot of the slide path

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

04/20/2021 18:13
I encountered the same last April, though I didn't trigger it myself. I had been the first up Lackawanna, traversed back and forth to 13,660 B, and while descending the top of the gully a pair of splitboarders triggered an avalanche almost identical to yours. Glad you're OK, sucks about your boots though.

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