Weekend in Avalanche News | 3/24/14

SnowBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche

After a quiet week of Avalanche activity in the United States, the weekend crowds have found places to trigger slides. While only one person was killed in the United States other areas reported avalanche fatalities.

One Killed In Snoqualmie Pass Avalanche 

One man is dead following an avalanche on Granite Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington on Saturday. Two men were hiking in the Granite Mountain area on Saturday when the avalanche occurred. One man was hit by the slide but able to walk out and contacted search and rescue. Search and rescue remained on the scene overnight. There have been no updates on the search for the man trapped in the slide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASouth Face of Granite Mountain. The summer trail crosses all three of those avalanche runouts before reaching the ridge. photo: yellowleaf.org

The avalanche forecast issued by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) for Saturday was moderate. Granite Mountain has a ridge that runs generally East/West and a summer hiking trail up the South Side. It is unclear at this time where the hikers were and no detailed information about the avalanche have been released. In the picture significant cornice buildup facing North can be seen. Travelling on the North face there is a risk of cornice breaks, especially with warmer spring weather.

Approximately a year ago another hiker was killed in an avalanche on Granite Mountain while his group was hiking straight up the ‘left’ avalanche start zone following a spring storm.

On-Piste Avalanche Kills 2 in Sochi

sochi-avalanche.siRescue operations in the Roza Khutor debris field. photo: 23.mchs.gov.ru

Two people were killed the day after Roza Khutor, the snowsports venue for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, opened to the public. No specifics have been released about the nature or trigger of the avalanche. The slide occurred inbounds on the Labirint run, one of the hardest at Roza Khutor. Six skiers were on the run when the avalanche released. Two were buried and received fatal injuries and the other four escaped unharmed, one with a broken arm. After all the negative media attention that Russia received prior to the beginning of the olympics, this definitely doesn’t make the region look any better.

One Killed in Avalanche in Hakuba, Japan

An avalanche hit three skiers near the Japanese resort town of Otari in the Hakuba Valley of Nagano Province on March 21st. That same day Hakuba Cortina ski area decided to keep the upper mountain closed, following a full area closure the day before, due to high avalanche danger. The party of five were advised against travel in the mountains before 8:30am by a lift operator (likely at Norikura ski area, which has a broad mellow ridge) and it is believed they entered the mountains around 9am. A distress call was sent out around 11:30am.

map_imgOtari area map

Three of the five party members were caught in the slide that occurred approximately 500m North of the lift terminal. Masaaki Uno, 70, died of trauma after falling dozens of meters down the slope, and another party member broke an arm. A low pressure system formed off the coast and deposited large amounts of snowfall in a short period of time. The new snowfall fell on top of rain crusts present from earlier in March. On Friday the avalanche danger in Hakuba was rated as considerable.

 Guide and Client Killed in Zermatt Avalanche on 3/17/14

Pol-cant.-VS1Photo of the slide zone and the cornice. photo: police cantonale valais

avalanche1_zoom945Close-up of the collapsed cornice. It looks as though the area under the collapse ripped to ground. photo: police cantonale valais

A guide and his client were killed while heli-skiing in the Zermatt area on March 17th. The group had been dropped off by helicopter and were traveling along the ridge to their start zone when the cornice broke off, approximately 9:30am, carrying them hundreds of meters to their deaths. The guide was heli skiing with a German couple. The husband was also caught in the avalanche but was able to self-rescue and call for help. Once rescue personnel arrived they were unable to save the guide and wife. Their bodies were found 500m below the ridgeline. The avelanche forecast for the day forecasted the risk of dry avalanches as low, with wet slide activity forecast as considerable and increasing throughout the day.

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