Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2009-01-02
Submitted By: GNFAC: Chabot
Place: -Main Vein- Ice Climb; Shoshone National Forest
State: WY
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 ice climber caught and killed


Ice Climber Avalanche Fatality

02 January 2009

Cody, Wyoming

“Main Vein” (WI III)

Doug Chabot, Director, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

This report was compiled through one phone interview with a rescuer who interviewed the survivor.

It’s third hand information and has not been fact checked.

The avalanche occurred on the Shoshone National Forest, far away from our forecast area.

Cody, Wyoming usually has almost no avalanche danger because of lack of snow, but in the last 2 weeks they've gotten "lots" with very strong winds. They also had a 2 week cold snap in Dec. Friday started as a bluebird day, temps in the mid 40sF, but it started to snow by 10am. Climber A (survivor) noted a small, insignificant sluff soon after. Climber A and climber B (victim) were on the last 2 pitches, which form as one long ice runnel. Climber A led the first of these two and made a belay (2 screws) below a bulge. Climber B came up, racked and took off on the last lead. Because of the easy nature of the last pitch he only trailed 1 of the 2 ropes they had (diameter unknown). Climber A had the second rope stacked next to him.

Climber B led out, had not placed a screw when he yelled "avalanche!" He was about 10 feet up the pitch.

Climber A held on, but the rope slowly slid through the belay device until it was fully extended. The slide stopped, Climber A did a belay escape and used the second rope to rap to Climber B. Climber B was off to the side of the pitch below suspended about 5 feet off the ground. Climber A cut him down and quickly assessed he was dead. Climber A then rapped down and reported the accident.

I was told that the slide happened about 1pm. The fracture was seen by SAR from the air and was 1/4 mile wide. They thought it may have been triggered by a cornice drop.

I have no specifics on the weather or snowpack, nor on the avalanche characteristics.