Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2000-12-31
Submitted By: Doug Chabot, GNFAC
Place: Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka Range
State: MT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 2
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.

MEDIA REPORT***************


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

5:30 p.m.

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

avalanche problems."

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

consciousness quickly.

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.