Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2007-03-10
Submitted By: BTNFAC
Place: Darby Canyon, Fossil Mountain
State: WY
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed


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On Saturday two backcountry travelers in Darby Canyon on the west side of the Teton Range triggered a hard slab avalanche in the starting zone of a well defined avalanche path (Figure 19.2).

Figure 19.2 Photograph of the slide path in Darby Canyon where a backcountry skier died in an avalanche on March 10th

Two brothers were ascending when the slab they were upon failed and caught them both. One was on a splitboard and above the other. He was carried approximately 200 vertical feet and was not injured. The other brother, who was on telemark skis and below his sibling on the same slope, was carried a long distance and buried under several feet of avalanche debris near the toe of the slide.

The area of the avalanche starting zone where failure of this slab occurred was reported by Don Sharaf, who investigated this incident, to face northwest and have a steepness of 36 to 39 degrees. The slab was hard and underlain by faceted snow. In the area where the avalanche was triggered this slab was shallow (8 to 12 inches deep). The thickest section of the crown of this slab was just over three feet deep. Rock bands and boulders outcrop from a shallow snowpack in this area of the starting zone (Figure 19.3).

Figure 19.3 Starting zone of the avalanche that killed a backcountry skier on March 10th

The victim was carried approximately 1700 vertical feet. He had an avalanche beacon and was located and uncovered by his brother who then performed CPR until rescuers arrived. The cause of death was reported to have been trauma and suffocation.

There were several inches of new snow on the morning of the 10th. On Saturday morning skies were cloudy with light snow. The skies cleared as the day progressed. At the Raymer Plot at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the air temperature reached 29 degrees at 2 PM. This avalanche is believed to have occurred at about 5 PM.


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Avalanche Fatality in Darby Canyon

I am sad to report that I just got home from a SAR call-out to an avalanche incident in Darby Canyon, where one skier perished. I got the call-out at about 5pm Saturday afternoon.

From what I can tell, two brothers (one from Driggs, one from Steamboat) were ascending the the western slope of Peak 10,028, which is a spur ridge off of Fossil Mountain, from the South Fork of Darby Canyon. One was on a splitboard and the other on telemark gear. As they skinned to the top of the ridge, the slope avalanched, taking the skier (from Steamboat) about 1500-2000 feet down the mountain. The debris came to a stop uphill from the summer trail.

The splitboarder immediately went into search mode and dug out his brother from under 3-4 feet of snow as soon as he could. CPR was initiated until SAR could respond with advance life support (ALS) equipment. Unfortunately it wasn?t enough and he didn?t survive, most likely a victim of trauma. As it got dark, the use of the helicopter was no longer available. Considering the current snow conditions and avalanche danger, the call was made to recover the body in the morning. Rescuers were unable to capture the victim?s dog who was also on the scene, so it stayed with his master through the night.

The body recovery went smooth in the morning using a long-line from the helicopter. Unable to gain the dog?s trust enough to load him in the helicopter, rescuers skied out?and luckily the dog followed, to be reunited with his masters fiance. One upside to hold on to from the past 18 hrs. Condolences go out to all the parties involved and remember to send them some positive vibes the next time you are in your own church.

Please be careful in the backcountry as Spring approaches and the snowpack goes iso-thermal in the warmer temperatures. Getting an early start is key!