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Avalanche cycle in Summit, close call on Loveland Pass

Avalanches ran long and deep all around the Loveland Pass area Tuesday, responding to cornice failures, ski cuts and highway avalanche control work. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Winds continue to load starting zones, even under sunny skies, so avalanche danger will persist in high country

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A string of early season close-call avalanche incidents continued Tuesday, when a pair of backcountry travelers narrowly escaped harm after triggering a slide in a well-known path at Loveland Pass.

The large slab avalanche broke away on an east-facing leeward slope under a ridge line around mid-day. Wind had carried snow from the most recent storm into a thick pillow sitting atop an unstable base; exactly the type of slope the Colorado Avalanche Information Center singled out as dangerous in its morning bulletin.

The avalanche center reported that one member of the party was partially buried, but that they were able to self-rescue.

The Summit Daily’s Caitlin Row wrote an excellent breaking story on the slide here.

Several other large avalanches also ran on similar slopes in the Loveland Pass area, where observers for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported a tender snowpack and rated the overall avalanche danger as “high,” with human-triggered slides likely.

Both ski cuts and highway avalanche control work resulted in triggered slides.

This year’s spate of slides began Oct. 5 in Rocky Mountain National Park, where a 40-foot wide, 6-inch deep slab broke loose and took a pair of climbers for a short ride down a steep, rocky pitch, according to the avalanche center. A week later, three skiers near Independence Pass remotely triggered an avalanche in a steep, north-facing gully. That slide ran about 1,200 vertical feet.

On Oct. 17, a skier triggered a medium-size slide, about 2 feet deep. The avalanche took with it all the new snow from the October storms, right down to the surface of the permanent snowfield on the Tyndall Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Another skier suffered bumps and bruises when he was caught Oct. 25 in an avalanche on Flattop Mountain, in Rocky Mountain National Park. The latter slide broke 4 feet deep, showing how early season snowfall can quickly lead to mid-winter avalanche conditions.

Also on Oct. 25, a skier triggered a slab on a hard ice crust at 12,000 feet on an east-facing slope at Loveland Pass. The skier tumbled about 150 vertical feet, but there wasn’t enough snow to bury the skier. According to the avy center, the slide’s crown (where it broke away from the surrounding snow) was about 20 inches deep.

On October 31, a trio of skiers in the backcountry near the Climax Mine (near Fremont Pass, between Copper Mountain and Leadville) were involved in another serious incident that required a helicopter rescue.

Read the avalanche center’s list and description of early season accidents here.

See below for additional photos of the recent slides at Loveland Pass.

 

The setting sun clearly shows how wind can transport new snow into avalanche staring zones even under clear skies. The slide visible in the picture broke close to 4-feet at its deepest and ran several hundred vertical feet, piling up an impressive mound of debris at the toe.

 

Another slide on the west side of Loveland Pass broke away beneath a cornice at the ridge line and tunbled down a series of steep cliff bands. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

 

This Dec. 15 avalanche on the west side of Loveland Pass ran several hundred vertical feet into a relatively low-angle run-out zone low on the mountain. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

This Dec. 15 avalanche ran from underneath a cornice several hundred vertical feet down a slope known for slides.

This photo ran several hundred vertical feet down from underneath a cornice near Loveland Pass .

 

Another smaller slide in a seemingly random spot just west of Loveland Pass.

 

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3 Responses

  1. [...] See photos of some of the Loveland Pass-area slides here. [...]

  2. [...] Top Posts AboutOn-the-go updates from Colorado Ski Country USA now livePhotosSnowAvalanche cycle in Summit, close call on Loveland Pass [...]

  3. [...] Posts Avalanche cycle in Summit, close call on Loveland PassAboutDec. 18 weather: Powder, El Niño and … sunspotsNewsCan Web 2.0 technology help ease I-70 [...]

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