Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Avalanche witnessed

I saw a crazy thing yesterday. After seeing that avalanche conditions were consiberably dangerous with pockets of high danger, Berg and I decided to stay in the trees at Berthoud Pass. The snow was great in Floral park, and we were already on our third hike up. When we reached the top, we sat for a minute to get our stuff together. I was looking across the valley at Russell Peak and caught a glimpse of ski tracks at the very top. "Holy crap!", I said to Berg, "there are tracks on Russell." I was very surprised to see that soneone would have attempted that run on a day with such obviously dangerous conditions. Russell is a serious run that is very steep, with lots of cliffs and chutes. There were even two natural slides visible on the far skier's left that had occurred recently. We followed the tracks down the mountain, and they ended abruptly. "That's weird.", I thought. Then I realized that the group was stopped on the run. We waited, and finally, someone dropped in. After a few quality looking turns, the skier was above a large cliff. He went around the cliff on his left, and as he passed the cliff, boom, the entire slope below him let go. "Holy shit, it slid!", I said to Berg. We watched as the cloud of snow built in intensity as it reached the flats below. The skier was able to turn in just below the cliff ban and was not pulled down the mountain. If it had slid a second later he would have been buried. Lucky guy. The group was able to ski down the slide path safely to the bottom. We were sitting in awe that we just watched the entire event, live. Those guys got so lucky. They looked like good skiers, so I hope they knew what they were doing. It was a good solid reminder to stick in the trees and enjoy the deep soft powder on a "considerable" day. There are plenty of days to explore steep terrain, and we gave to be patient with nature.

-Nick Wigston

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