Tag: backcountry

Woman survives mountain lion attack in Big Bend NP

Two mountain lions rest in a shady spot. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Part of Big Bend National Park closed

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service officials say a woman attacked by a mountain lion in Big Bend National Park, Texas, did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Andrea Pinero Cebrian and companions were exploring the Mesa de Anguila, near Lajitas Friday, Nov. 23 when she was attacked. Cebrian was treated by Terlingua Medics.

The Mesa de Anguila has been closed to all visitors while rangers and park biologists investigate and patrol in search of the mountain lion.

“Visitor safety is our main concern here in Big Bend and we will monitor and close the Mesa until we deem it safe for visitors,” said park superintendent Cindy Ott-Jones.

Fatal mountain lion attacks are rare in the U.S. The most recent documented fatality was in June, 2008 in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. In Colorado, the most recent mountain lion fatality was in 1997, when 10-year-old Mark Miedema was killed by an adult female cougar when he hiked ahead of his family on Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wildlife experts say the best course of action if you meet a mountain lion is to stay calm and talk firmly and quietly to the animal while backing away slowly.

Other tips:

  • Do not run.
  • Raise you arms to appear larger.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on. Do not crouch down or turn your back.
  • Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back.

Season starts for Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Daily forecasts posted online

Early season snow can quickly pile up and create avalanche risks in the Colorado mountains.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is up and running for the season, offering daily weather forecasts tailored to specific geographic mountain areas and general early season avalanche information. Zone-specific avalanche updates and warnings will start to flow as soon the snow starts piling up, at the latest by Thanksgiving, said CAIC director Ethan Greene. Continue reading “Season starts for Colorado Avalanche Information Center”

Colorado: Avalanche center switches to spring mode

Zone forecasts end, statewide forecasts issued three times per week

Debris from a March 30 wet snow avalanche that killed a skier near Ophir, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has switched to a spring forecasting mode, ending zone-specific updates in favor of a statewide forecast emphasizing overall spring avalanche awareness.

The CAIC will continue to issue weather forecasts twice a day, through April 30, with statewide avalanche statements Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, by 5 p.m. through the end of April and into May if conditions warrant.

CAIC director Ethan Greene said the change came a couple of weeks earlier than usual, prompted by a March snowpack meltdown that left many mountain areas nearly high and dry. Continue reading “Colorado: Avalanche center switches to spring mode”

Colorado: Backcountry skier dies in San Juan avalanche

Spring conditions lead to large wet snow slides


By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting the seventh avalanche death of the 2011-2012 season, as a backcountry skier was caught and killed in wet snow slide near Ophir Pass in the San Juans.

The accident occurred March 30 on an east-southeast aspect high above treeline in a well-known slide path. According to preliminary reports, the slide fractured about 24-inches deep and 550-feet across, and ran down a steep gully for almost 2,000 feet in an area known as Upper Paradise Basin.

CAIC investigators said they will visit the site Saturday to compile a full report. The preliminary report says the slide happened at about 4 p.m.

Wet snow avalanches frequently run in the spring during warm cycles in the weather, as melted snow percolates through the snowpack, lubricating harder layers below the surface.

Overall, the avalanche danger in the North San Juans was rated as moderate for the day, with a warning that the snowpack was susceptible to rapid destabilization in the afternoon under the influence of warm temps and sunshine. As well, a layer of dust on the snow was expected to speed melting.

From the March 30 conditions report:

“Deep persistent weak layers remain a concern on shady, high elevation steep slopes facing northwest through north to east. These deep slabs are difficult to initiate, but if you trigger an avalanche, it would be large and destructive.”


Colorado: Skier buried, suffers broken ribs in avalanche near Vail; ‘considerable’ slide danger persists in the backcountry

A slabby and fragile snowpack prevails in much of the Colorado backcountry. PHOTO COURTESY CAIC.

Triggered slides remain likely near and above treeline

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Considerable avalanche danger persists in the Colorado backcountry, where a skier this week was completely buried and suffered six broken ribs and a collapsed lung in a slide near Vail.

Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the skier triggered the soft slab by jumping off a cliff on a north aspect hear Mushroom Bowl. His partners were able to uncover him from the slide that broke about 30 inches deep, 100 feet wide and ran about 380 vertical feet.

Another skier triggered yet another slide nearby while CAIC experts were on-site investigating the first avalanche. In the Tenmile Range, another slide was triggered by a falling cornice, illustrating the continued potential for natural slides. More information at the CAIC accidents web page.

With the backcountry avalanche danger rated as “considerable” triggered releases are still likely in many areas, specifically on northwest through south aspects near and above treeline.

Up to 12 inches of snow fell across much of the Vail-Summit zone fell since Monday, adding stress to a slabby snowpack riddled with weak layers. Check the CAIC forecast before heading into the backcountry.

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger persists

Numerous slides reported from the Vail-Summit and Front Range mountains

Beautiful tracks in a dangerous spot.

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few days of sunny and relatively warm conditions haven’t eased the backcountry avalanche danger by much, according to forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The hazard is rated as considerable in nearly all the mountains of Colorado — with the exception of the south San Juans. With dense slabs sitting atop a weak base of faceted sugar snow, natural slides are still likely in some spots, and backcountry travelers can easily trigger avalanches by hitting weak spots in the snowpack

Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are all required for safe travel in the backcountry, according to the CAIC’s latest bulletin. Continue reading “Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger persists”

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche watch issued

Snow Thursday night could set off another natural avalanche cycle

Parts of the Colorado mountains are under an avalanche watch. Click for more info.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A round of forecast snow — perhaps 4 to 10 inches Thursday night — could unleash another cycle of dangerous, naturally running backcountry avalanches, Colorado snow safety experts said, issuing an avalanche watch that covers the Front Range and mountains to the west from Fairplay up to Steamboat Springs.

Four people have died in avalanches this season, including two at ski areas. Get the latest backcountry update at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website.

An avalanche watch means that, if the weather forecast is accurate, the avalanche danger will rise to high in the watch area, with both natural and triggered slides likely. The watch is in effect through 11 a.m. Friday. A high danger rating means very dangerous backcountry avalanche conditions, and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Specifically, the warning covers the Park Elkhead, Flattop, Front, Gore and Tenmile ranges. Continue reading “Colorado: Backcountry avalanche watch issued”