On Thursday, May 13, at approximately 6:30 pm, Glacier National Park, MT, rangers responded to a report of bikers trapped behind an avalanche near Triple Arches on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Three bikers, a husband and wife, along with a friend, traveling up the road, encountered an avalanche across the road, turned around, and started back down. Soon after, they encountered a second avalanche in progress. The wife was ahead of her husband and friend and heard the avalanche. She warned her husband and friend to stop. Unfortunately, the avalanche came down between them, trapping the woman’s husband and friend on the uphill side.
The wife biked down to call for help. A ranger arrived at the site of the avalanche around 7:30 pm.
“The sudden onset of sunny and warm weather on Thursday afternoon, combined with recent new snow from the previous weekend, created unstable surface snow conditions. These conditions resulted in a wet, loose avalanche originating above the road in Triple Arches that deposited debris on the road.”
– USGS scientist Erich Peitzsch
Park officials determined that they would wait until the sun was off the slope above, decreasing the chances for further slides, before starting rescue attempts.
The rescue began around 9:30 pm. Rangers belayed across the avalanche chute and belayed the bikers individually back across the chute. The bikers sustained no injuries. All three bikers are from Bigfork, MT.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently closed to vehicles at Avalanche Creek until the road opens to Logan Pass for the season. In addition, due to continued avalanche conditions, hiker/biker access is currently not permitted past the Loop. Check the park website for updates.
Park officials remind visitors that snow can avalanche above Going-to-the-Sun Road in active avalanche terrain that often cannot be seen from the road. Avalanches are more likely to occur before or after sunny/warm weather, rainstorms, or snowstorms. Therefore, visitors are encouraged to start and finish their trip before the warmest part of the day. Do not stop under gullies or snowfields and turn around if there is a rapid increase in temperature.
For more information on biking in the park, visit the park’s biking webpage.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 32-mile (51.5km) road that runs through the mountains across Glacier National Park in Montana. The road, which was an engineering marvel when constructed, set the standard for design and procedure when constructing roads in National Parks by being minimally intrusive to the environment and incorporating the natural resources surrounding it into the design.
Plowing the Going-to-the-Sun road varies each year. With unpredictable spring weather, 60′ snowdrifts, and working on dangerous roads require immense time and energy. The road usually opens in June or early July, although the park will never guarantee an opening date due to unpredictability.