Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2005-04-01
Submitted By: SNFAC
Place: Brodie Gulch, Baker Creek near Ketchum
State: ID
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 Snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed


Date: 04-01-2005

Submitted By: Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center

Location: Brodie Gulch, Baker Creek apprx. 20 miles northwest of Ketchum, Idaho

State: ID Country: USA

Fatalities: 1 Activity: Snowmobile

Summary: 1 Snowmobiler caught, buried and killed

Friday, April 1st Sawtooth NF Avalanche Center forecaster Chris Lundy was traveling out Baker Creek on a snowmobile, gathering snow information for the avalanche advisories. At 2:10 pm he rode into the upper basin of Brodie Gulch, a popular backcountry snowmobile route. A large slide had broken 1,000 feet across most of the basin and a lone figure running on the debris was calling to Chris for help. Chris found that one rider had been caught & buried and immediately called the Avalanche Center from his satellite phone.

Janet Kellam then notified Blaine County Sheriff and Mark Baumgardner of Sun Valley Heli-Ski. Neither the victim nor the survivor had beacons, probes or shovels. There was no last point seen, although there were multiple tracks leading into the slide path from where the rider had been riding up and across a portion of the slope. A thorough visual search by Chris and the survivor produced no clues, nor did probing any of the likely areas. At approximately 5:00 pm the Sun Valley Heli-Ski avalanche dog located the victim immediately upon reaching the scene. Boise St. Alphonsus Life-Flight had flown in Mark and his dog to the site while other rescuers, other dogs and handlers were traveling in by snowmachine or on the next flight in.

Blaine County Sheriff, Blaine County Search and Rescue, Galena Backcountry Patrol, Sun Valley Heli-Ski, The Sawtooth NF Avalanche Center, Ketchum Sun Valley Fire Departments and Sun Valley Ski Patrol were all involved in the fast and efficient response that staged out of the Baker Creek trailhead north of Ketchum.

The slide was on an east-facing slope wrapping northeast. SS-AM-R4-D3+-O, slope angle averaging 30 to over 40 degrees. At 9,500 feet it was rocky alpine terrain with some sub alpine fir scattered across the slope. 1,000ft wide, 2-3 foot deep fracture line, 400-500 vertical foot drop, debris 12-15 feet deep and covering an estimated 6 acres.

The 2-3 foot deep slab was fist hard snow at the surface, pencil hard at the base and consisted of newer snow that had fallen since mid March. The weak layer and underlying snowpack consisted primarily of weak, very developed facets due to an extremely dry snow year (50-60% of average) and very little snowfall since January 9th.

The avalanche advisory had been warning of deep slab instability and the risk of triggering large, destructive avalanches. Exactly a week earlier, a backcountry skier had been caught in a smaller but similar avalanche and had been evacuated and survived with a crushed pelvis, two broken femurs, a broken tib-fib and lower arm fracture. Only days earlier, on the Payette Forest north of Boise, a snowmobiler had survived without injuries, an 8 and1/2 foot burial in a massive slide.