Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Doug Chabot, GNFAC
Place: Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka Range
Summary: 4 hikers caught, 1 injured ,2 killed
>From the regular avalanche report this am...written by Doug Chabot...
Yesterday Ron and I investigated an avalanche on Emigrant Peak in the
Absaroka Range that tragically resulted in two deaths. These
mountains are out of our advisory area, however, the unstable
snowpack, although thinner, wasn?t very different than elsewhere. On
December 31st four people were hiking in a line up the west side of
the peak when they crossed an avalanche path near the ridgetop at
about 9400?. They triggered the avalanche which carried the first
person in line 25 yards before he was able to grab a tree. The second
in line went 200 yards, but managed to stop himself suffering a knee
injury. The 4th and 5th in line unfortunately went 1600 feet vertical
down the narrow slide path burying them near the toe of the debris.
One person had their hand out; the second was under 2 feet of snow.
The first two dug up the visible victim, but trauma made CPR
ineffective. The second victim was located a little later, but he too
was deceased, most likely from trauma. Over the weekend these
mountains got their first significant snowfall, which easily doubled
the snowpack in many areas. This new snow fell onto some very large
and weak faceted-grains that resulted in unstable conditions. We
estimated the slide to be about 2 feet deep, and 200 feet wide with
the starting zone being wind loaded.
This weak snow at the base of our snowpack is plaguing much of our
area. In fact, this scenario of weaker snow underlying cohesive slabs
is responsible for many incidents and fatalities in Wyoming and
Colorado too. Remember that recent avalanche activity or
collapsing/whumphing of the snowpack are signs of unstable conditions
meaning you should use extra caution if you decide to travel into any
avalanche terrain. This sad incident should serve as a reminder to be
extra careful and to reel our enthusiasm in a bit since our current
weak and variable snow conditions can have serious consequences.
By TOM LUTEY Chronicle Staff Writer
A father and son from Bozeman died New Year's Eve when they were swept away
by an avalanche while hiking south of Emigrant.
Donald Cory, 50, and son Samuel, 14, planned to bring in the new year on the
top of 10,000-foot Emigrant Peak, about 8 miles south of Chico Hot Springs.
They spent most of Sunday scaling the west slope with Samuel's brother,
18-year-old Kasey Cory, and friend Kevin Franke, also 18.
But with 1,500 feet to go and darkness upon them, an avalanche overwhelmed
the party, flushing father and son 1,600 feet down a rock-ridden chute,
burying them in about 2 feet of snow.
Kasey Cory and Franke, who was visiting from Virginia, made it to a stand of
trees and were spared. Cory searched for his family, while Franke made the
long trip for help, making it to a cabin where there was a phone.
"Kasey did some searching near the top of the avalanche. He finally found
Samuel downhill. He saw his arm" sticking out of the snow, Kurt Graybow, the
boys' uncle, said Monday.
The older brother tried to revive Samuel Cory without success. It was about
Donald Cory, a retired Park Service worker who lived to be outdoors, was not
found until 9:30 p.m. or later, after Park County Search and Rescue workers
"He was in the Park Service for 26 years and this was basically his life,"
Graybow said of his brother in-law. "They were well-prepared, two-way
radios, headlamps. They intended to make a snow cave and stay the night."
The Cory family owns an old miners cabin near the mountain and knew the
area. This was their second New Year's Eve trip to the peak.
Samuel Cory, home-schooled, was a competitive crosscountry skier for the
Bridger Ski Foundation. Two weeks ago he placed third in a West Yellowstone
meet, a boy racing against young men.
Graybow speculated that Kasey Cory's footsteps triggered the slide because
he was slightly above the others, breaking trail. However, with considerable
avalanche conditions blanketing the West, the slide could have been
triggered from below.
Doug Chabot, avalanche specialist for the Gallatin National Forest, said a
thin layer of unstable, crystalline snow that fell during the last two
months lies beneath most Western snowpack. He calls it "junk snow" and says
a misstep even low on a mountain can spark a slide high above.
"We're concerned, and unfortunately because of the nature of this weak
layer, it's incredibly persistent," Chabot said. "We're going to be talking
about this in February, I'm afraid."
Avalanche specialist Karl Birkeland, who like Chabot is based in Bozeman,
said the danger comes from "the way our season started. We had relatively
thin snowpack and relatively cold temperatures in December and November.
It's not just us, but around the West we've had some pretty serious
Also Sunday, other backcountry skiers triggered a slide in the mountains
north of Big Sky. They were making their way to the confluence of the Bear
and Beehive basins when one person in the party started a snow fracture that
raced 500 yards diagonally above them, causing the avalanche. No one was
injured, said Birkeland.
The day after Christmas, a snowmobiler was buried by an avalanche on Daisy
Pass near Cooke City, Chabot said. The snowmobiler passed over the same spot
several times, which eventually broke loose. Friends pulled the man out in
And on Christmas, an avalanche buried a 16-year-old boy snowmobiling with
his North Dakota family in the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone.
The boy was trying to free his stuck snowmobile from low on a mountainside
when a slide struck. Family members spotted a piece of snowmobile track
after the avalanche and worked to free the upside-down machine, which rested
on top of the boy. Chabot said the youth blacked out, but regained
Monday, because of strong winds in the Bridger Range north of Bozeman, there
where several natural avalanches that resulted from cornices dropping onto
the wind-loaded east and southeast facing slopes.