Close-call in Avalanche Canyon

Brian hikes around Taggart Lake after losing a ski in a slough avalanche in Avalanche Canyon

Brian Ladd hikes around Taggart Lake after losing a ski in
a slough avalanche in Avalanche Canyon.

About halfway to the fork in Avalanche Canyon today was when I knew I should have gone skiing on Teton Pass instead. It was snowing really hard now, and you could hear the winds ripping on the peaks above.

Brian Ladd and I succumbed to the fact that we wouldn’t be climbing and skiing the couloir we had planned to today, but at this point we figured we might as well continue a bit higher to at least get in some powder turns. Our skis lead us up into the South Fork of Avalanche Canyon and the slope below the popular Turkey Chute, a 40°(ish) couloir that drops off the backside of 25 Short.

We were able to stay out of the main slide path down low, but as we skinned higher, we were forced more into the slide zone. Not feeling comfortable with the situation…wind loading, surface slabs, and a good hard running surface…we decided this would be the end of the road. We snuck into a small slot on the side of the slope to transition into descent mode…and that’s when it happened.

It was completely silent and all I heard was a small sound from Brian before I felt the snow tug at my skis. A large slough had released from above and was cascading down upon us. It knocked Brian over and washed him down the slope a bit before he was able to grab onto a rocky outcropping with his gloveless hands. I was closer to the slope’s edge, and was able to scoot backwards as the second wave came through and continued to beat Brian against the rocks.

When the snow stopped coming from above, I watched Brian get up and yell for me…not knowing I was still where we had stopped. Luckily, I was able to gather my pack and poles as the slough came in, but Brian was still in free-heel mode, and the force was enough to pull one of his skis off and send it down the slope…burying it along with his poles and backpack.

We quickly searched for Brian’s gear, but were only able to recover his pack…not wanting to linger too long in the run-out zone in case more snow decided to release. I lent Brian my poles and we worked our way out of the canyon…with Brian only on one ski.

Surprisingly, we made decent time back to the parking lot, even though we had to go around Taggart Lake…since we were punching through the surface a bit on the way in. Props to Brian for his skills in getting out of the canyon so quickly with limited equipment. Looking back, I don’t think the slide was big enough to really bury someone very deep, but maybe knock you around a bit…so we were thankful to get away uninjured.

I’m sure Turkey Chute will get skied a bunch more this season, so hopefully someone will find the skis and poles and return them. We lost 1 Atomic Kailas (183cm) w/ Dynafit bindings, 1 Black Diamond Flick-Loc pole, and 1 Black Diamond Whippet self-arrest pole (unfortunately…the Whippets were mine).

If found please email me at: Randosteve@tetonat.com or call 307.690.2716…Thanks! Oh yeah…please use caution out there until the snow has a chance to settle. The wind has really done some serious loading in spots.

Comments

9 Responses to “Close-call in Avalanche Canyon”


  1. 1 Ted Apr 19th, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Glad you got out safely.

  2. 2 randosteve Apr 19th, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Me too Ted…Thanks!

    Looks like a powder day tomorrow!

  3. 3 Mark Donohoe Apr 19th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Steve,

    I have been reading your Blog all season. Followed the link from Lou’s blog which I have been following for 2 years. I also see your posts on Couloir. I am Calif. based, do all my skiing in the Sierras. My self and 3 others are leaving soon for a yearly trip to the E.Side. This year due to lack of snow we hope the Matterhorn Area out of Bridgeport will be OK. Storms comming in so we will have powder instead of corn…. OK with ME!

    Very glad to see you and your partner are OK. The one thing I have noticed in your posts is the lack of pits you seem to dig. I am sorta the same way… rely on seeing what is going on and watch the avi. reports. But our snow pack is much safer than your! Again, glad to see you are OK and hope you get the gear back soon. Take care.

  4. 4 randosteve Apr 19th, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for visiting Mark! That link from Lou’s site is pretty nice.

    We poked at the snowpack with our poles once the fresh stuff started to pile up, and Brian had dug a quick pit by hand on the switchback before we stopped and called it.

    Unfortunately a few switchbacks too late. :oops:

  5. 5 butler Apr 20th, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Steve, Sure glad you guys are O.K. That could have been ugly.

  6. 6 Bart Apr 20th, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    glad you guys are ok. we skiied the pass yesterday and the variability of snow depth was incredible. I assume that was an easterly aspect that slid?

  7. 7 Laddie Apr 20th, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    It was a northerly aspect. We were at about 8800′ when it struck. Not sure what the start zone was due to lack of visibility but I guess it originated as a slough coming off cliffs a few hundred feet above us.

    I’m home today, resting my arms which are super-sore from the effort of trying to keep my skiless boot from postholing too bad. Sure am glad I had the one ski to get out of there anyhow!

  8. 8 randosteve Apr 20th, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Skied on Taylor today…VERY re-active!!!! :shock:

  9. 9 Laddie Apr 21st, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Went back up to the site again today and found my ski, pretty happy about that (it was only my 4th day on them and I was really liking them!) Poles still missing. Checked the altimeter this time, site where we were hit is 9200′.

    Today the snow did not feel reactive to the touch anymore but quick pits revealed easy to moderate q1 shears on the old snow/new snow interface coming out with some energy… still poor stability there. Opted not to climb Turkey Chute.

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