Sunday, March 26, 2023
Sunday, March 26, 2023
Salt Lake » Mt Olympus
Location Name or Route
Trigger: additional info
Party of three in the Memorials on Sunday. After the first two had skied most of the couloir, skier #3 triggered an avalanche that was 14"-18" deep and ~35' wide. Skier was carried ~15' before stopping and was not buried.
Our group had read both the UAC report for that day, as well as the recent avalanche submission in Memorial 5 from Friday. Having been in the memorials before, we understood that the walls of the couloirs have a tendency to shed and we made note of this. We selected to ski Memorial 2 and skinned up the line to the top, noting that there were multiple other people in the couloir that were lapping it. Memorial 2 is wide, and this avalanche was triggered on the skier's right side of the couloir beneath the tall wall that faces north.
A few important takeaways:
-We selected Memorial 2 because it was the "lowest angle" of the memorials and was the "least consequential terrain." This was naive. It caused us to let our guards down to an extent. We discussed our descent, but not in great detail, and we didn't make many observations of the snow on the skin up.
-Though we knew it would be snowing on this day, the amount of snowfall during our ascent was more rapid than expected and was not fully discussed. We verbalized that it was snowing a lot, but instead of discussing how this may affect avalanche conditions, we were more concerned with how great the skiing would be.
-Descending the couloir, the choice was made to ski close to the tall, north-facing wall. This was poor judgment because it was known that traversing out closer to that steep wall would be a location that was more likely to avalanche. However, the snow was untouched there, and the focus was more on where the "best turns" would be rather than safety.
-The quintessential, "they skied it before me so it should be ok" mindset. Such a well-known mistake that is embarrassing to make.
Summarizing these mistakes is pretty embarrassing and disappointing. This avalanche was NOT surprising. We knew the conditions, we read the report, we saw the previous avalanche report in Memorial 5, and we knew those walls tended to shed. Nonetheless, our guards slightly lowered when they shouldn't have been, and the concern was more on getting the most fun skiing possible. Our group is lucky that this can be taken as a learning experience and that nobody was hurt or the incident was not more severe.