Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2006-02-01
Submitted By: Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center; Burak
Place: Blacksmith Creek drainage,Twin Lakes area; Sawtooth Range
State: CA
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 3 people caught, 2 carried, 1 partially buried, 1 killed


Blacksmith Creek Avalanche Fatality: 1 triggered, 3 caught, 1 killed.

February 1, 2006.

Written by Sue Burak, Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center


On Wednesday morning, three skiers were switch-backing up a 35-40 degree east-facing slope in route to Mt. Walt in the Blacksmith Creek drainage. Blacksmith Creek is west of Twin Lakes in the Bridgeport area. At an elevation of approximately 9,600 ft., the group stopped in a stand of whitebark pines. At this location, the slope angle was 40 degrees and the aspect changed from east to northeast in a shallow gully that was approximately 125 ft across. In order to attain the ridgeline, it was necessary to cross the gully had to be crossed.

Two skiers stayed in the whitebark pine glade as the other skier began to cross the slope. As the skier was crossing the slope, he triggered a small avalanche that propagated across the slope. This small avalanche resulted in a larger avalanche that propagated up and down under the ridgeline. The linear distance was about 400 vertical feet. All three were caught in the slide that released in the gully and above them. One skier managed to hold onto a tree until the avalanche stopped. The skier that triggered the slide was swept downslope approximately 800 vertical feet. The female skier was swept approximately 600 vertical feet through the whitebark pine glade and onto the open slope below. The male skier was partially buried in the main portion of the debris with his head below the snow surface and his pack on the snow surface. The female skier was on the snow surface on a separate lobe of avalanche debris.

The avalanche released on northeast to northwest aspects at 9,600 ft. The crown was not visible due to wind loading in the shallow gully. The avalanche ran 1,600 long, 900 ft vertical and was 50 feet across at the toe of the avalanche.

The slope failed on a 2 cm wind crust of knife hardness. Total depth was 215 cm.

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Woman Ski Patroller Killed; Two Other Patrollers Hurt In Avalanche

by George Shirk

A woman was killed and two Mammoth men suffered injuries in an avalanche in the backcountry above Bridgeport on Wednesday, Feb. 1, a Mono County Sheriff's Department spokesperson said.

The woman and both men were off-duty Ski Patrollers, according to Joani Lynch, communications director at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

The woman, whose name was withheld pending notification of next of kin, was pronounced dead at University Hospital near Fresno, where she was airlifted from the scene of the accident.

"It should be noted that all three skiers were extremely experienced," said Shannon Kendall, the public information officer for the sheriff's department.

"It is likely that the warmer temperatures yesterday contributed to the avalanche."

Investigators said they were notified of the accident by Christopher J. (C.J.) Pearson, 27, of Mammoth, after the slide near Black Smith Canyon in the Twin Lakes area.

He had been skiing with the woman and Joshua Feinburg, 30, also of Mammoth, when the slide broke loose. Pearson said he was able to hold onto a tree until the avalanche subsided, but the others were trapped.

Pearson told emergency rescue personnel that at first he could not see either Feinburg or the woman, but on closer inspection he saw Feinburg to the left of the slide, his backpack exposed, and the female victim to the right of the slide, on top of the snow.

Pearson said Feinburg was not breathing when he first got to him, but was revived upon having his airway cleared.

Feinburg's most serious injury was a large cut to his lower jaw.

The female victim suffered a broken femur, broken back and head contusions and was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Unable to get her out on foot, she was airlifted by a helicopter crew from Mather Airfield, situated near Fresno.

Kendall said many law enforcement personnel from the Mono County Sheriff's Department, as well as at least 13 members from the volunteer Search and Rescue responded, bringing with them snowmobiles, snowshoes, skis, first aid supplies and life saving equipment.


Skier killed by avalanche in Sierra Nevada, two survive

Thursday, February 2, 2006

(02-02) 16:02 PST Bridgeport, Calif. (AP) --

An avalanche in the Sierra Nevada killed a skier and injured two others, authorities said Thursday.

A 31-year-old Mammoth Lakes woman with a broken back, broken leg and other injuries was pronounced dead Wednesday after being flown to a Fresno hospital, said Shannon Kendall, spokeswoman for the Mono County Sheriff's Department.

The victim's identity was not immediately released pending notification of relatives.

Joshua Feinburg, 30, and Christopher J. Pearson, 27, both of Mammoth Lakes, survived.

The three friends were skiing in the back country near Black Smith Canyon in the Twin Lakes area when they were caught in the avalanche, Kendall said.

"All three skiers were extremely experienced and carried avalanche beacons with them," Kendall said.

Pearson was able to hold on to a tree until it subsided, then dug his friends out of the snow and moved them to a safer location, she said.

Feinburg was not breathing but Pearson cleared his airway and he revived. He had a large cut to his jaw that was treated after his rescue.

The woman slipped in and out of consciousness, Kendall said.

Pearson skied about a half-hour to Mono Village and used a store telephone to call for help. Sheriff's deputies and more than a dozen members of the volunteer search and rescue team went to the remote area with snowmobiles, snowshoes and first aid equipment, Kendall said.


BRIDGEPORT, Calif. (AP) -- A woman was killed when she and two backcountry skiing companions were caught in an avalanche in a remote area near this eastern Sierra town, authorities said Thursday.

The Mono County sheriff's office said the avalanche occurred near Black Smith Canyon in the Twin Lakes area Wednesday morning.

All three victims are from Mammoth Lakes.

Christopher Pearson, 27, was able to hold on to a tree during the snow slide, sheriff's spokeswoman Shannon Kendall said. Afterward, he found his friends on opposite sides of the avalanche field.

Pearson was able to revive Joshua Feinburg after clearing his airway. He then helped move both Feinburg and the woman to a safer location before going for help, Kendall said.

Feinburg, 30, recovered enough to get down the mountain, where he was treated by medics for a large cut to his jaw, authorities said.

Kendall said the 31-year-old woman suffered severe injuries, including a broken back, and had to be airlifted out by helicopter.

She was taken to University Hospital near Fresno, where she was pronounced dead.

Her name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

The sheriff's office said all three were experienced skiers and carried avalanche beacons.

Warmer temperatures could have contributed to the avalanche danger in the steep terrain, authorities said.

AP-WS-02-02-06 1824EST