Amie Engerbretson on Being Buried in Avalanche in Utah on Monday

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video of Amie getting buried by an avalanche on Monday

Amie Engerbretson of Lake Tahoe, CA was buried in an avalanche on Monday, December 9th in the Alta, Utah backcountry without a partner with an avalanche beacon.  Luckily, an avalanche forecaster and one of our reporters saw her get buried by the avalanche and were able to bring her back to the surface within 5 minutes.  If these people hadn’t have happened to be where they were, when they were, Amie may have died of suffocation beneath the snow.

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photo of Amie triggering and getting caught by the avalanche

Today, Amie has published an account of her incident and what she’s learned from it.  It’s an interesting read.  Here’s a few excerpts:

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Photo showing the entire avalanche.

Blind Spot

by Amie Engerbretson

We talked very briefly about the snow and safety at the top. Checking the area, we didn’t see any visible signs of instability or recent activity, and it was mentioned that the slope had been skied recently. We realized that the other skier had her pack (not an airbag) but had forgotten her beacon and that the photographer didn’t have backcountry gear. Our plan was to keep it mellow, safe, get a shot or two and head back.

 ***

I whizzed by two other hikers making their way up, dropped in, hit my mark with a beautiful (feeling) deep Utah slash turn.

avalanche person
Amie after returning to the surface on monday

As I was finishing my turn, everything changed. I saw cracks everywhere and felt the undeniable shift of the snow beneath me. At that moment the knowledge and training that I do have, that had been previously neglected throughout the day, kicked in. I swiftly and easily pulled my airbag trigger and felt it inflate. I saw some small trees diagonally to my right and knew that was my only chance. I did not want to go into the ditch. I managed to stay upright, swimming with all I had, and made it to the trees. I grabbed onto the trees and felt the airbag getting caught on them, possibly helping me stay there as snow rushed around me. Then something happened and the snow had new strength, ripping me from the trees. After later talking to the photographer, I learned that the entire slope above me sympathetically released and took me down.

***

For a millisecond, panic started to creep in, but Lel’s voice came back. I had an inch or so air pocket in front of my mouth. I closed my eyes, didn’t try to move, and started to breathe slowly. Within what I believe to be 20-30 seconds, I felt and heard movement on top of me. I later learned the photographer was the first to get to me, saw the tip of my pole sticking out of the snow. He began clearing the snow as the other rescuers arrived. Shortly after I felt a probe strike my right arm. I gave a few loud yells that were unheard. I heard the digging and felt the pressure lessen. They uncovered my right hand first, grabbed and squeezed it. I squeezed back. Shortly after, snow was swept away from my face. As I took a deep breath in, I saw the relieved face of the photographer, quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen.

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The avalanche crown. photo: jake hutchinson

My rescuers included the photographer and three people I did not know. They asked if I was hurt, I said I didn’t think so but I had peed my pants; clearly I was scared. They located my limbs, one ski was still attached and they got me fully out quickly. I stood up, trembling; amazed at what happed and that I wasn’t hurt. A rush of immense gratitude took over towards these strangers who had put themselves in danger to save me. Soon after a rush of utter stupidity came over me as my eyes awoke to all the warning signs around us.

Read the full article here:

Blind Spot

by Amie Engerbretson


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4 thoughts on “Amie Engerbretson on Being Buried in Avalanche in Utah on Monday

  1. I never want to call anyone out for reactions in a slide, nearly shit my pants the first time my head went under, but what about stopping in the middle of the slope right when it settled? I tend to go for the straight line while screaming like a little girl.

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