This has been an unusually active week for fatalities in the mountains, especially given the time of year. Here are a few lessons that we can draw from this week's SAR news:
1) Ski with a partner. There were two tree-well deaths this week. To learn more about how to avoid this danger, click here.
2) Stay found. There are two missing people out there right now, and a few more that were missing but that have been found. Make a tour plan. Stick to the plan and carry a personal locator beacon to call for help in an emergency.
3) Double check your systems before lowering or rappelling. There are a lot of accidents and fatalities from this. If you make a transition, check the system by weighting it while you're still clipped in. If there's a problem, you should notice it.
4) And finally, use common sense in avalanche terrain. Know how to use your self-rescue equipment and ski with those who understand how to use it too. Pick appropriate routes for the avalanche report and don't deviate.
And finally, on this holiday weekend, let's think about the families of those we've lost from our community...
--The search for a missing backcountry skier has been suspended due to dangerous conditions and may not resume until Saturday, search-and-rescue officials said. It's already been four days since 43-year-old Monty Busbee of Maple Valley went missing near Snoqualmie Pass. And it could be three or four more days until the conditions moderate enough to allow the search to continue. To read more, click here.
--At the time of this writing, a teenage snowboarder was still missing on Mt. Washington on British Columbia's Vancouver Island. To read more, click here.
--A skier died Saturday afternoon after falling into a tree well at Snoqualmie Pass. According to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, 50-year-old Kelly Luna was skiing in the Silver Fir area when he separated from his son and two other adults to ski through a wooded area. To read more, click here. To learn about how to deal with tree wells, click here.
--On December 15th the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received notification of a deceased 18-year-old female at Outpost Camp, which is a stopping point on the route to Mt. Whitney. To read more, click here.
--Finally something good to report on the California snowpack. It is currently at 121% of normal. To read more, click here.
--An in bounds avalanche was triggered by a skier in the Dragon’s Back area of Mammoth Mountain ski resort in California on Dec. 14th, 2015. Another skier below was caught in the avalanche and rode in it for a few hundred feet. This area was closed at the time of the avalanche. To read more, click here.
--A 28-year-old woman fell to her death on Bell Rock in Sedona on Monday evening, according to Yavapai County officials. To read more, click here.
--The Red Rock Rendezvous is coming. To learn more, click here.
Notes from All Over:
--Jennifer Kendall "Kayah" Gaydish died in a 50-foot fall while climbing at Hidden Valley, Virginia on Sunday, December 20. She was a prominent North Carolina climber, conservationist, board member of the Carolina Climbers' Coalition, and a single mother, with two teenagers. To read more, click here. To learn about the cause of the accident, click here.
--A 25-year old female skier was killed in an accident at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Tuesday. It appears that this individual was also killed in a tree well. To read more, click here.
--Officials have confirmed that 42-year-old Snowbasin, UT ski patroller Mike Erickson was caught in an avalanche and injured while performing avalanche control at Snowbasin on Tuesday.. Mike pulled his airbag and was partially buried when the avalanche came to a stop. To read more, click here.
--Winter sports is a $60 billion industry that props up 900,000 U.S. jobs, but because of climate change it could be melting away before our eyes. Since the 1960s the Northern Hemisphere has lost nearly a million miles of spring snow cover and that trend shows no signs of stopping. “Even if we stopped everything right now the warming continues for half a century, maybe more,” says Porter Fox, author of DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow. “We are trying to get ahead of that ball and say the trends you are seeing are only going to get worse.” If the warming trend continues unabated and the western part of the country loses between 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100, as predicted, it will reduce the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegate skiing to the top quarter of Aspen Mountain. To read more, click here.
--Speaking of Climate Change, the Cool Green Science blog has a cool assignment for citizen scientists and mountaineers. They're looking for samples from the world's glaciers above 20'000-feet to better understand glacial thinning. To learn more, click here.
--The Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that three people will go to trial facing manslaughter charges for the death of Tito Traversa. In July of 2013, 12-year-old Italian climbing phenom Tito Traversa died from injuries sustained from a ground fall while climbing in Orpierre, France. An investigation into the cause revealed that he had been climbing on improperly assembled quickdraws—specifically the improper use of a rubber keeper designed to hold the carabiner in place. Tito was under the supervision of a climbing club when the accident occurred. To read more, click here.
--On Tuesday, after the president's early morning gym session, President Barack Obama, his family and a few friends took on the Koko Head Crater Stairs -- a popular Hawaii hike that is so grueling, people often refer to it as the "Stairmaster from Hell" or the "Koko Head Stairs of Doom." To read more, click here.
--The international ski federation is banning camera drones from its World Cup races after one of the flying objects crashed and nearly hit Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher during a slalom in Italy. To read more, click here.