Two men were caught in a large hard slab avalanche Saturday afternoon, December 31, while snowshoeing near Emerald Lake. One man ended up on top of the debris uninjured. He was unable to locate his friend, who was presumed buried in the debris.
By around 4:30 pm the weather cleared enough for a helicopter to fly and extricated the one man that was not completely buried. Due to poor weather conditions, no organized rescue was possible Saturday night. On Sunday a rescue party was organized but it was determined that avalanche danger was too high for rescuers to proceed. Search efforts have been called off until later in the week due to high avalanche danger and another strong storm forecast to affect the area Monday into Tuesday.
Later, rescue efforts produced nothing until the spring thaw when the body was found.
Body found may be missing snowshoer NATALIE EVANS - Daily Herald Utah County searchers believe they have found the body of missing snowshoer Marshall Higgins. A search-and-rescue plane passing over the Primrose Cirque area on Mount Timpanogos Friday reported seeing clothing partially buried in the snow. The clothing items are consistent with those reportedly worn by Higgins, though no positive identification of the body has been made. Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Harris said a search-and-rescue plane has been flying over the area every three days, weather permitting, since an avalanche on Dec. 31, 2005, buried Higgins, 31, of Salt Lake City. After spotting the clothing, search and rescue efforts were organized for Friday afternoon. Harris said the body was three to four miles away from the Aspen Grove area. When searchers arrived at the body, they used ice picks and shovels to dig a hole 12 feet in circumference and 7 feet deep through three layers of ice, according to a Utah County press release. They reported that each layer of ice was 2-6 inches deep. Before searchers could take the body down the mountain, a thunderstorm suspended the search, the release stated. They decided to spend the night on the mountain with the body, which was fitted for transport on a stokes litter. The body is ready for Life Flight, and searchers hope the helicopter will be able to take the body off the mountain today, the release said. Searchers have been looking for Higgins since the avalanche. Searches days after the incident had to be called off because of weather and potential avalanche danger to rescuers. Searches organized in the spring were called off because of too much snow in the area, though searchers have hiked through the area looking for Higgins since the snow started melting. They have not identified the body yet, but there are no other missing persons reported to be in the area, Harris said. Natalie Evans is available at 344-2561. or [email protected]. Please visit: www.sltrib.com Article Last Updated: 1/02/2006 12:39 AM Salt Lake man presumed dead in avalanche Search suspended: A Salt Lake City man is presumed dead, but a missing teen is found near Snowbird By Jason Bergreen The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake Tribune ASPEN GROVE - Just before Marshall Higgins headed out for a snowshoeing excursion into the high mountains east of Provo, Jeff Frederick took a photo of his friend in the pre-dawn darkness of Aspen Grove. On Sunday, that photo was tacked to the inside wall of a Utah County sheriff's mobile command center as helicopters waited to get to the mountainside where Higgins had been swept away in an avalanche on Saturday. By midafternoon, authorities told Higgins' family that the search had been deemed a search and recovery, not a search and rescue. A short time later, weather and snow conditions forced temporary cancellation of the search. Earlier, Higgins' brother Adam Higgins, said the family was aware that change in the status of the search meant Higgins likely had died. "It was disheartening but expected," he said. ''We're so grateful Jeff came out of it.'' Higgins, 31, and Frederick, both of Salt Lake City, had hiked for more than five hours to an altitude of about 10,300 feet near Hidden Lakes when the slide engulfed them. Frederick was able to ride it out, clutching a tree to stop. He searched for his friend, then used his cell phone to call for help. A Utah Department of Safety helicopter plucked him to safety at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Also on Sunday, a 16-year-old California boy who had gone missing in an out-of-bounds area of Snowbird ski resort was found alive and in good condition at about 11:20 a.m. Snowbird spokeswoman Laura Schaffer said the boy built a snow cave in Mineral Basin, in the north fork of American Fork Canyon, and emerged at about 10 a.m. Sunday and flagged down a search helicopter. "He was a smart kid, and the clear weather today, those were the saving graces in this situation," she said. The boy's parents declined to release their and their son's names and hometown, she said. In the search for Higgins on Sunday, Wasatch Powderbird Guides dropped 29 explosive charges to knock loose any potential avalanches before search crews were to be flown in. But shifting winds and intermittent cloud cover forced authorities to call off the search, and Utah County Sheriff James Tracy said forecasts of another storm system meant it would not resume today. Tracy said weather and conditions would determine when the search would continue. Higgins' brothers described him as a sociable guy who made friends easily. An experienced snowshoer and outdoorsman, he had ventured into the area several times in years past, his brother Brandon Higgins said. This was his first foray there this winter; Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Darren Gilbert said Saturday neither man had an avalanche beacon on this trip. Frederick declined to speak to reporters Sunday at Aspen Grove. Higgins is survived by his wife, Kelly, and daughters Hannah, 3, and 2-year-old Emilee. His presumed death is the first this season. By this time last year, four people had died in avalanches, and a total of eight would perish, making that season one of the deadliest since records have been kept. Saturday's avalanche was near where three men died on Dec. 26, 2003. They were among a group of five who were swept down as they snowboarded in the Roberts Horn Chute of Aspen Grove, about 2 1/2 miles north of Sundance Ski Resort. The California boy apparently slipped through two rope barriers at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday to get to the out-of-bounds backcountry, Snowbird's Schaffer said Sunday. He was reported missing about 4 p.m., and the ski patrol and dogs searched for him until 11:30 p.m., when conditions were deemed too unsafe, Schaffer said. During that time, the boy carved out a snow cave for refuge, she said, adding that he had heard snowcats about 100 yards away at about 10 p.m. that night but was "too tired" to flag them down. The boy slept in the cave through the night, awakening at 10 a.m. Sunday to the sound of a helicopter. He waved to it and was rescued about 90 minutes later. The boy and his parents had been skiing and boarding, but when he went missing he was with some cousins, Schaffer said. Salt Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Todd Griffiths said the boy would not be penalized for leaving the resort's boundaries. ''He basically got lost, went off a small hill and got in an area where he felt he could not hike out,'' he said. In all, the ski patrol, Wasatch Powerbird Guides and representatives of five counties - Salt Lake, Weber, Utah, Davis and Wasatch, contributed to the two searches. Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle and editor Peg McEntee contributed to this report.