Wasatch Mts, UT Backcountry Report: I Was Caught In An Avalanche on Mt. Superior Today

Miles Clark | | AvalancheAvalanche

Report from 30th January 2020

AVALANCHE REPORT:

I triggered and was caught in a small avalanche on Mt. Superior, UT today.

The avalanche was about 50′ wide, 12″ deep,  and I rode in the avalanche for about 150-vertical-feet before I was able to backseat ski my way out of the avalanche and accidentally launch off a snow knob.

I was uninjured.

The avalanche danger on Mt. Superior today was rated as “Moderate”.

This was the first avalanche I’ve ever been in and it was terrifying.

I dropped into a line of the skiers right of Mt. Superior today at about 4pm.

I’d skied Superior 2 days ago and skied in the path of an avalanche that had already run that morning and I knew that the avalanche problem on Superior existed on the eastern aspects of the mini-spines that come off the summit.

I estimated that 48-hours was enough to solve that avalanche problem, but I was wrong.

Instead of skiing the gut of the little gully I dropped into, I skied up and onto the mini-spine and rode on the eastern aspect of it – the exact location of the avalanche problem I was already familiar with from 2 days ago.

On my 10th turn down the gully and up onto the mini-spine, I triggered a 12″ deep, 50′ wide avalanche that broke 6-feet above me.

I thought that I’d simply stab my hand and skis into the bed surface and stop, but that did not work.

I rode in the avalanche and pointed my skis straight down to attempt to ski out of the avalanche.

I was somehow able to backseat ski my way out of the avalanche and accidentally launch off a snow knob and crash safely in the snow below.

Upon landing the small avalanche continued down the mountain without me to my right and I stayed exactly where I landed.

I was very lucky today.

I made a bad decision today.

I learned a lot today.

Thanks to my very strong backcountry partner, Ben.

image: utah avalanche center
Ben on Superior. image: snowbrains

SKI REPORT:

Before the very serious avalanche accident I experienced today, we were having a great day and I’d like to share our day in words and images for the learning of all.

The snow was terrific in the Wasatch today.

We started the day off with a short, low-angle tree run in foggy weather.

Then, the sun came out and things were gorgeous.

We then skied an uncommon chute that was terrifically fun.

From there we went up Mt. Superior and a fog rolled in again.

A north wind picked up at around 3pm and blew the fog away.

We dropped in to Mt. Superior around 4pm and the snow was good.

I was in the avalanche described in detail above and was uninjured.

After the avalanche, we skied down the debris in the chute then down to the road in bad visibility.

PHOTOS:

Ben on Superior. image: snowbrains
Monte Cristo. image: snowbrains
Ben. image: snowbrains
Mt Superior. image: snowbrains
Mt. Superior on horizon. image: snowbrains
Ben hiking up Superior. image: snowbrains

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10 thoughts on “Wasatch Mts, UT Backcountry Report: I Was Caught In An Avalanche on Mt. Superior Today

  1. So this was a size 1 windslab in the alpine? Curious as to what you think was your bad decision – had the prevailing wind been from the west, i.e. windslab issue was on the east facing spines you skied? Just trying to understand and learn. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks M. This was likely a size 0.5 windslab in the alpine. Bad decision was that I knew that the avalanche problem was on that east aspect of the mini-spines and ended up skiing that exact location.

  2. And this unfortunately will happen more often as more people venture out in bc terrain for many reasons but mostly to ski untracked snow as is preferable to tracked and skier packed in bounds ski area terrain.
    It is always about choices and decision making, and typically those who trigger avys are statisically males ages latex20’s to early 40’s.
    Why?
    Mostly hubris and less risk averse than older men or females of similar age.
    Just glad all ended up ok.
    Seriously dodged one that could have far greater consequences.
    Be smart people be safe make better decisions and avy forecast warnings are never exact.
    Moderate and even considerable still mean high risk mo matter what you think you may know or how well you have been trained.
    There a far more variables than any one person can ever account for in mountainous avalanche prone terrsin.
    Darwinism is a huge factor.
    Humans are stupid.
    Humility is best
    Wait till snow becomes more stable.
    Stop with ‘having to’ mindset and dont be afraid of potential shame cause ‘you didnt do it’.
    We’ve lost too many and it aint worth it.
    let the ‘spray’ continue on.
    Just be smart and safe peeps
    Pluuueeese….

    1. Hello Closecall, thanks for the comment. What’s really interesting is that backcountry use has gone hugely up in the past decade yet avalanche deaths have remained constant. These numbers appear to show that backcountry users are making good decisions. Thanks again.

      1. Again improper validation of such risk exposure for what reason? Justification of placating ego mostly.
        Until you witness the shit really go down or lose a close friend or relative…
        Trust me you never get over such….

        1. Thanks for the comment, Sameolsameol. I’ve witnessed some challenging situations. I’ve lost a few friends in avalanches. My statement that you’re responding to is a general one that I’m happy to restate:

          What’s really interesting is that backcountry use has gone hugely up in the past decade yet avalanche deaths have remained constant. These numbers appear to show that backcountry users are making good decisions.

          Thanks again

  3. You of all peeps should read this if you already havent already
    Heuristic traps n such

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/magazine/avalanche-school-heidi-julavits.html

    Go big or go home! right?

    “The problem — the primary human problem — is that people are susceptible, prideful, bullheaded, egotistic, dumbstruck and lazy. Add to this doomed slurry a little avalanche training (or what used to qualify as avalanche training, and its focus on analyzing snowpack), and people make terrible decisions with greater frequency and confidence.“

    I would also suggest a new section for your site
    Perhaps call it “Safety Brains”
    derrrr……or not.

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