Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-17
Submitted By: Dale Atkins, CAIC
Place: Peak 13,294 (Citadel), Dry Gulch, Loveland Pass area
State: CO
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 climbers caught, carried. 1 buried and killed


Peak 13,294 (Citadel), Dry Gulch, Loveland Pass area

February 17, 2003

2 Climbers Caught, 1 Buried and Killed

On Monday afternoon a 48-year-old Ken Caryl man was buried and killed in a large hard slab avalanche on

the SE face of point 13,294. This peak also known in climbing circles as the Citadel and by its lesser-known

name -- Snoopy (for it resemblance of the Peanuts character on his dog house) -- by those who ski Loveland


The men had parked started their trip by following the Herman Gulch trail to the saddle east of pt. 13294

between Herman and Dry Gulches. From the there the men ascended the east ridge toward the summit of the

peak. At some point below the summit they turned back and descended a short distance down the southeast

ridge. High on the ridge they decided to traverse across the broad southeast-facing slope to gain the east

ridge and retrieve some gear left earlier on the ascent. At about 3:15pm the pair triggered the avalanche.

One man took a short ride but stayed on top of the moving snow. After the avalanche and not spotting his

friend he used his cell phone and called 911. The victim was not equipped with avalanche rescue gear.

Rescuers from Alpine Rescue Team, Loveland Ski Patrol, and Keystone Ski Patrol responded and searched

into the evening without success. The search was suspended for the night.

On Tuesday morning rescuers returned. Trained avalanche dogs alerted in a few spots but their efforts failed

to locate the buried man. Very dense avalanche debris may have been the reason the dogs struggled to detect

a strong scent. Finally a little after 2pm a probe line located the deceased man under 4 to 5 feet of snow.

Avalanche Summary

This very large hard slab avalanche was classified as HS-AF-4-O. The avalanche was triggered by the men

(artificial foot) and ran on old snow. The fracture line depth generally ranged from 2-3 feet but up to 6 feet in

places and extended about 550 feet across the slope. The avalanche started at about 12,880 feet and fell

approximately 640 vertical feet down the southeast-facing slope. The slope angle ranged from 34 degrees

near the top of the slide to 37 degrees. The alpha angle (angle from the toe of the debris to the fracture line)

was 25 degrees.

The backcountry avalanche danger forecast issued Sunday afternoon (valid for Monday morning) for the N

mtns was "generally moderate with pockets of considerable near and above treeline on NW-NE-SE aspects.

Triggered avalanches are possible to probable.... The wind tonight will only stiffen these slabs so Monday's

releases in the N mtns will likely be larger." Early Monday morning the danger was upgraded to

CONSIDERABLE near and above treeline on all aspects on the CAIC telephone hotline.

Notes: News reports have incorrectly identified the peak as Centennial or Sentinel. Also reported was the

men were snowshoers, but they were actually peak climbers and were not using snowshoes while high on the


Atkins, 2/18/2003; updated on 2/19


Avalanche victim recovered

Searchers find man's body day after slide

By Steve Lipsher and Kieran Nicholson

Denver Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - SILVER PLUME - Dozens of exhausted searchers Tuesday finally

recovered the body of a Ken-Caryl man buried in an avalanche a day earlier.

"It's always disappointing," said Steve Wilson of the Alpine Rescue Group. "You always want a

happy ending. It doesn't always happen."

The body of Kenneth S. Booker, 48, was found about 2 p.m. by a line of rescuers using 12-foot

aluminum probes.

About 70 searchers and several avalanche dogs had worked since Monday afternoon to recover the


Booker, who has no children or immediate relatives in Colorado, was described by friends,

including his snowshoeing companion who escaped the avalanche, as an experienced outdoorsman who

loved the mountains.

"He just had an inspirational free spirit that was completely infectious," said John William

Brill, 46, Booker's neighbor and mountaineering partner. "His passion was the outdoors."

Booker's parents and two brothers live in England, said Wes Roberts, a friend of more than four


Brill and Booker had been snowshoeing Monday afternoon above timberline near the Loveland Pass

ski area when Booker was swept hundreds of feet by a massive snowslide.

The avalanche ran about 1,500 feet vertically, starting from near the summit of a 13,294-foot

peak known colloquially as Citadel, and left the victim buried under about 5 feet of packed snow

impenetrable even to the dogs' noses. The avalanche path was 500 feet wide, adding to the

difficulty of the search.

"He was 50 feet behind me," Brill said. "Ken happened to be right in the middle of Saddle Gulch,

the epicenter of the avalanche. It happened before you could even blink an eye. We were going

downhill after hearing a huge, thundering boom. I, just out of pure luck, caught myself with a

pickax" and fell only about 50 yards.

Booker becomes the first avalanche fatality this winter in Colorado, which averages six a year.

"We had a terrible February and March last year, and I hope we're not setting up again for that

this year, although the ingredients are there," said Knox Williams, director of the Colorado

Avalanche Information Center.

Williams, who visited the area with rescuers Tuesday, said the snowshoers had entered a "clear

and obvious avalanche path."

The avalanche center on Tuesday afternoon raised the avalanche danger in the central mountains

from moderate to considerable at all elevations.

"We knew it was quite touchy," Williams said. "I'm sure it was wind-loaded and just waiting for

a trigger."

In spite of the increased avalanche danger - more than 15 snowslides had been reported in the

region in the past couple of days - the two Ken-Caryl men had climbed well above timberline

without adequate backcountry gear, said Bill Barwick, spokesman for the Evergreen-based rescue

team that led the search.

"If you go into the backcountry without an avalanche beacon, a shovel and a probe, you're being

unreasonable," Barwick said. "Did they follow reasonable protocol? I'm sure, to their minds,

they probably thought they did. They thought they'd done everything right. ... To my mind, if

you don't take the necessary gear to get your partner dug out, it speaks to something other than


Brill alerted authorities on his cellphone and attempted to find Booker as light faded Monday

afternoon, but by the time rescuers arrived more than an hour later, his friend's odds of

survival had diminished to virtually zero, rescuers said.

Booker usually carried a beacon with him, Brill said, but a last-minute car problem forced them

to switch gear from Booker's car to Brill's car.

"I'm not sure everything got transferred," Brill said. "I'm not sure that he had all the gear he

intended to have."

Still, the men set out for a day of alpine adventure like they had done together so many times

in the past.

"We both felt perfectly competent in what we were doing," Brill said. "We were in the wrong

place on the wrong day. We had no warning; we felt no threat of danger."