Two people on two different islands were partially buried by avalanches in New Zealand last week (Wednesday, July 8th), both at 11am.
A senior ski patroller at Turoa ski resort, NZ was partially buried las week when stepping onto a snow slope to dig a snow pit. A solo backcountry skier in the Godley Glacier/Lake Tekapo region of Mt. Cook National Park, NZ was caught in an avalanche at the same time as the ski patroller and was unable to free himself from the avalanche debris and was rescued by helicopter.
The senior ski patroller at Turoa ski resort on Mt. Ruapehu was swept downhill and partially buried by avalanche at 11am last Wednesday when stepping onto a slope to dig a snow pit to analyze the avalanche stability of the slope. He was carried 165-feet downhill and was left buried up to his waist. Luckily, he was able to free himself and escaped without injury.
20cms of new snow had fallen at Ruapehu on Tuesday night and a southerly wind was blowing las week creating wind-slab avalanche conditions. The avalanche was rated as a Grade 1 out of 5 avalanche.
“I had gone down an icy slope and as I went off a little ledge there was debris coming down.”
“It was probably my second step onto the slope when it released. Things are pretty sensitive.”
“I knew what the hazard was when I was in there and what size avalanches we were expecting. It will still be classed as a near-miss and we will investigate that as well.” – partially buried patroller who asked to remain unnamed.
The avalanche occurred near the Jumbo lift on Ruapehu’s southwestern face. The partially buried patroller was able to dig himself out of the avalanche debris.
The solo backcountry skier (who didn’t ski due to a broken binding), Nicolas Lowe, in the Mt. Cook National Park was also partially buried at 11am last Wednesday and was unable to free himself. He was taken about 200-vertical-feet downhill by the avalanche. He triggered his rescue locator beacon after trying to free himself for 4 hours at 3pm and was dug out of the avalanche debris by helicopter rescuers at 4:45pm.
“I just simply want to say how grateful I am. They’re legends, they do a totally top job.
“It took me about 50 to 60m. I was uninjured but without an ice axe there was no way I could get out.
“I walked back down the (Godley) valley and thought of it (finding his own way out) and decided I’d better let it off. I looked at the map and paced out some options but it had been blowing a stiff southerly.” – Nicolas Lowe
The avalanche danger was rated as “Considerable” at the time of this Mt. Cook National Park avalanche.