3 Men Caught, 1 Buried and 2 Injured After Triggering Avalanche in Alaska

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Credit: CNFAIC

A man was buried on Wednesday when three hunters in Alaska triggered an avalanche. His two friends managed to dig him out.

An avalanche was triggered by three sheep hunters traversing along a ridge above Hunter Creek. It was reported that the hunter in the lead triggered the slide. All three hunters were caught and carried approximately 1,000-1,500′ down the slope.

One hunter was buried head first, head approximately 2’ deep, with only a boot above the snow. One hunter was carried over a 10-15ft ledge, coming to rest on the debris. The other hunter also came to rest on the debris. The two unburied hunters were able to dig out the buried hunter.

Using an InReach devise, the hunters were able to call for help just after 9pm. Two of the hunters were reported to have sustained non-life threatening injuries. The group was not reported to have been carrying any avalanche rescue gear.

CNAIFC Report

The three men were hunting sheep in the Hunter Creek area, just outside Chugach National Park, when the avalanche struck at around 9 pm. The buried man suffered cold-weather injuries and another a dislocated shoulder. The third was uninjured.

“One of the guys was buried and the other two individuals had to dig him out.”

– Alaska Army National Guard Lt. Col. Michele Edwards in a release about the rescue.

An Army National Guard UH-60 and crew departed Bryant Army Airfield at JBER for the hunters’ location, which was less than 30 minutes away, at approximately 11 pm.

“They were able to move about 100 yards down to a flat area where the helicopter could land. We had prepared for being able to hoist them out if needed, but it is safer to land, so we always will if there is an opportunity.”

– Michele Edwards

Once the helicopter was in the hunters’ vicinity, they signaled to it using their headlamps, which were quickly picked up by the crew flying with night-vision goggles.

“They had lighting that assisted our aircrew members in locating them, which was very helpful. Night-vision goggles amplify any existing light, so it was easy to find them.”

– Michele Edwards

The UH-60 transported the three hunters to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, wrapping up the mission just after midnight.

“To have avalanches this early in the season is definitely different, but I’m thankful that we’re able to stay prepared to assist and support our fellow Alaskans.”

– Michele Edwards

The 1-207th AVN and AKRCC were each awarded three saves for this mission.

As soon as heavy snow accumulates, avalanches are possible, said Alaska’s Weather Source Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey. Last year and in 2018, the first avalanches of the season in this area weren’t reported until late October. In 2019 however, the first avalanches were reported starting Oct. 12, reports Alaska News Source.

There have already been reports of avalanches in other areas of the state, including one along Crow Pass Trail in Girdwood on Wednesday and another earlier this month in the Turnagain Pass area.

Hunter Valley, AK

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