Multiple large avalanches were reported in the Rocky Mountain National Park, CO over the last weekend, involving a total of seven people and burying two. Nobody suffered serious injuries.
It’s been reported that four people were caught in a size 2 avalanche in Dead Elk Couloir, a steep couloir near Emerald Lake and popular hiking and snowshoeing destination, prompting warnings from the park officials of “significant” avalanche danger. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center described the slide in the couloir as “another piece of evidence that avalanche season is certainly not over.” Backcountry visitors should stay away from steep, snow-covered terrain.
Bear Lake, which sits about 2 miles east of Emerald Lake, recorded 9 inches of new snow between Wednesday and Friday, according to the Coloradoan. Temperatures were warm — between 22 and 42 degrees — making for heavy, wet snow that is sitting on top of frozen crust.
CAIC rated avalanche danger for the northern mountains Saturday as moderate, or a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest risk for an avalanche, and warned of wet avalanches, especially as the temperature climbs and the clouds break up. Cracking and collapsing cornices are also a hazard.
The park had recently begun its month’s long task of clearing Trail Ridge Road, the country’s highest continuous paved road, through the park. Crews had to stop trying to open Trail Ridge during the snow that fell last week. They resumed plowing Friday.
This has been a historic avalanche season with multiple large avalanches burying major highways in Colorado, including Interstate 70, US Highway 40 and US Highway 550. There have been eight avalanche deaths in Colorado this season, two more than average. There have been 25 reported avalanche deaths in the United States this season.