Backcountry Skier Killed Wednesday in Avalanche Near Etna Summit, CA

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Huge 2-foot crown. Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers

Two backcountry skiers from Ashland, OR, were caught in an avalanche around 2 pm Wednesday near Etna Summit, CA, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue TeamOne of the skiers was able to self-rescue, while the other unfortunately died. He has been identified as 35-year-old Brook Golling.

The Sheriff’s Office said that the two friends were backcountry skiing in a remote area near Etna Summit, on federal forest land. Both were equipped for the weather and the terrain but were caught in an avalanche—the wind slab avalanche released while they were at the top and removing their skins ready to descend.

PRELIMINARY REPORT:

At approximately 1400 hours on February 3rd, 2021, a backcountry skier and snowboarder were caught in an avalanche near Etna Summit. Both had many years of backcountry experience, carried a beacon, shovel and probe and were familiar with the area. The two reached the top of their intended descent route below a ridge line and were preparing to transition to ski/board when the avalanche occurred. Both riders were carried down the slope. The victim was quickly pinned and buried against a tree within 20-30 feet of their transition location. The survivor was swept through the trees and partially buried a distance down the slope. He immediately grabbed his avalanche beacon to prepare to search, but it malfunctioned. He began to dig in the most likely burial location he thought, back up the slope in the tree well and miraculously exposed a ski pole, which led to the buried victim. Approximately 25-30 minutes had passed since the initial burial. The survivor performed CPR for over an hour, but was unable to revive his partner. 

After discussion with the victim’s partner, he stated that they performed a beacon check in the parking lot before they began their tour. Both beacons were functioning and had good battery life. Further investigation found a corroded battery compartment of the beacon which likely led to the malfunction.

The crown was two feet deep, and the avalanche was 60 feet wide and slid about 150 feet down the slope.

Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers

Ben Koerber, 37, managed to dig himself out and was also able to dig his partner out from under six feet of snow and perform life-saving efforts unsuccessfully. Both men had checked their beacons in the parking lot before setting out, but the survivor’s beacon may have malfunctioned when he first activated it due to some corrosion in the battery compartment, reported Mt. Shasta News. He then skied down the mountain, drove to Etna, and called for help.

“They did everything right. They had their beacons, shovels, and probes and knew how to use them. He performed CPR for about an hour and a half, but couldn’t regain life. For one person to recover someone in six feet of avalanche material is very difficult.”

– Nick Meyers, director of the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center

Current forecast. Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center

The CHP-Northern Division Air Operations out of Redding assisted the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team in the mission. They were able to locate and recovery Golling’s body Thursday morning.

Avalanche danger in the Mt. Shasta area has been “moderate” above the treeline over the past few days, with the possibility of triggering old and new wind slab avalanches.

Brook Golling, 35

A memorial page has been set up for Golling to raise money for his funeral expenses and support his family.

Yesterday’s fatality is just days after a huge avalanche near Silverton, CO claimed the lives of three Eagle County residents and is the eighth in the state this winter. Last season there were six fatalities in Colorado all season.

A skier was killed by an avalanche yesterday after leaving Vail Resort, CO, through a backcountry access gate.

The body of a backcountry skier was recovered Wednesday after an avalanche on Mount Washington, NH.

Three hikers’ bodies were recovered Wednesday after being caught in an avalanche in the Chugach Range, Alaska, on Tuesday.

In Utah, a skier died Saturday after being buried by an avalanche in the backcountry just outside Park City Mountain Resort.

This week’s tragedies have more than doubled this winter’s USA avalanche deaths to sixteen. There have also been three avalanche deaths in Canada.

Etna Mountain, CA
Burial location. Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers
Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers
Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers
Credit: Mount Shasta Avalanche Center & Home of the Climbing Rangers

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