Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 1998-12-30
Submitted By: Steve Karkanen
Place: Missoula Lake area, Bitterroot Mountains
State: MT
Country: US
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler/shoveler caught, buried, and killed

December 30, 16:00, Missoula Lake area west of Superior, Montana in the Bitterroot Mountains along the Montana/Idaho border.

4 adult males travelled into the Cedar Creek drainage on snowmobiles in an attempt to access a mining claim located on the Clearwater NF in Idaho. By the time they arrived in the Missoula Lake area, travel conditions had become difficult due to deep snow and steep side hill terrain. The group had been shoveling a trail bed across steep side-hill terrain, 45 degrees + for about 1/2 mile. Two of the group had worked their way into the draw that crossed the slide path. The other 2 had not yet entered the draw or were at least behind the first 2. One of the first 2 went back onto the slide path to do more shoveling on that part of the trail when the avalanche released about 800'-900' above him. The victim was carried about 900' down-slope where he was completely buried. All members of the group were wearing transceivers and the victim was located within about 20 minutes. He was buried under about 2' of snow. CPR was unsuccessful. The victim was a 26 year old male.

The avalanche released on a north aspect 45 degree plus slope. The slide path was approximately 1800'long X 200-300' wide. The crown face was estimated at 6'.

The investigator believes the slide had failed at its midpoint due to the shoveling. The party had seen the advisory from the previous weekend and were concerned about possible instability. It may have been a case of being too goal oriented (taking supplies into the claim) to have turned back even though they were aware of the potential hazard.