Avalanche Kills Skier on Hurd Peak, CA | First Avalanche-Related Fatality in June Since 2012

AvyBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche
avalanche on Hurd Peak, CA
Avalanche site. Credit: Inyo County SAR

“On June 14th, 2023, a party of 2 was caught, carried, and one skier was killed in a wet avalanche on the north face of Mt Hurd, about 1.5 miles south of South Lake in the Bishop area. The avalanche released above the party as they were ascending the slope. As the avalanche ran downhill skier 1 was carried over a cliff band and both parties were partially buried. After freeing themselves skier 2 was able to extract skier 1 and initiate search and rescue. Tragically, despite the heroic efforts of their partner, skier 1 succumbed to injuries sustained during the avalanche. Initial reports suggest this was a naturally occurring loose wet avalanche D2 in size. ESAC staff will be conducting a site investigation in the coming days and a full report is forthcoming. We at ESAC extend our sincere condolences to the friends and family of the deceased and to all of those affected by this tragedy.” –  Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center on June 16, 2023

A backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche while ascending the north face of Hurd Peak in the eastern Sierra, CA, on Wednesday, June 14th. The death is the first avalanche-related fatality to occur in June since 2012.

According to Inyo County SAR, two skiers were ascending the north face of Hurd Peak when they were caught in a wet snow avalanche. One skier could extricate themselves from the avalanche debris and dig out the second skier. Authorities were alerted via a satellite messaging device, and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, and the California Highway Patrol Inland Division Air Operations extracted the skiers from the backcountry.

Unfortunately, despite the heroic efforts of their partner, the second skier did not survive their injuries.

Rescue helicopter. Avalanche site. Credit: Inyo County SAR

This year’s historic snowpack presents unusual dangers for late spring and summer avalanches. In addition to record-breaking snowfall this winter, the eastern Sierra has had a relatively cool spring, resulting in a large snowpack that is now exposed to intense solar radiation and summer rain. This is a recipe for wet snow avalanches, glide avalanches, and cornice fall.

Backcountry travelers should be wary of the possibility of summer avalanches. Snow conditions can change rapidly over the course of the day as the sun warms and weakens the snowpack. Due to differing slope angles and aspects, snow stability can change dramatically over short distances. Be wary of cornices on ridges and the development of ‘glide cracks’ across snow slopes, indicating a snowpack creeping downslope that may slide.

The fatality is the 28th in the US, the 43rd in North America this winter, and the first in California in two years.

Hurd Peak, california
Hurd Peak, CA
avalanche on Hurd Peak, CA
Hurd Peak, CA, on Thursday, 15th June 2023, with the slide path clearly visible. Credit: SnowBrains

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