Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: CAIC
Place: Little Bear Peak, Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Summary: 2 climbers caught, 1 partly buried and seriously injured, 1 buried and killed
Little Bear Peak
January 10, 2008
Two climbers caught, one partially-buried non-critical, one completely buried and killed.
Two climbers attempting to climb the west ridge of Little Bear Peak were caught in an avalanche while crossing a rugged and steep southwest aspect in Little Bear Basin on January 10. They triggered the avalanche near the ridgeline. The two were washed over a cliff (~100 feet). At the base of the cliff, the first avalanche triggered a second avalanche that was about four feet deep and ran to the ground in places. The debris stopped in a gulley near the top of a moraine. One of the climbers was buried to his waist. He dug himself out of the debris, but could not find any sign of his partner. With significant injuries, he climbed back to the ridge and down the other side to their camp. The next morning he descended the Como Lake drainage and called for help via 911 once he regained cell phone coverage near the San Luis Valley floor.
On January 12, rescue teams reached the bottom of the avalanche via helicopter. They completed a scuff-search, but found no sign of the second climber. They deemed the site too dangerous for an extended rescue deployment. Random probing indicated debris 7 feet and deeper.
The initial fracture was approximately 500 feet wide (HS-AF-R3/D3-O). When we visited the site it was difficult to determine the depth of the initial fracture, but it looked between 2 and 4 feet deep. The vertical drop was approximately 800 feet. The second avalanche (HS-NS-R3/D3-O) was at least 300 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Both avalanches released from steep, south and southwest facing slopes between 12,500 and 13,000 feet.
The CAIC often receives insufficient observations from the Sangre De Christo zone to issue danger ratings.
Greene and Toepfer, 20080113
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