Forums Avy Discussion Forum 3/1/14 Terminal Cancer Avalanche Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total) Author Posts March 3, 2014 at 8:14 pm #579774 ryan14410 21 Posts 3/1/14 Terminal Cancer Avalanche This is my account of the 3/1/14 Terminal Cancer avalanche in the Ruby Mountains outside of Elko, NV. I am telling this as it unfolded from my perspective. LJ, SW and myself drove out to the Ruby Mtns Friday night, 2/28/14, and slept in the car at the end of the plowed section of road in Lamoille Canyon. It was snowing through the night, and I knew from checking the weather throughout the previous days that it will be snowing the day we head up Terminal Cancer. New snow always gets me questioning the snowpack, so I figured we will see how the snow is as we make our way up. I’ve turned around plenty of times. We start skinning. LJ is in the lead, SW is in front of me. There’s not much snow at the creek crossing and the flats below the apron. Even on the apron, there wasn’t anything to worry about as far as the snow goes, only that there is a couloir that empties out right here. LJ is farther ahead, and SW and I are close enough to each other to talk in a slightly raised voice. There was some wet slide debris on the apron. The wind was blowing generally upslope, with strong gusts. The top of the couloir looked to be shrouded in clouds. (I’m already anxious and shaky as I’m typing this.) The new snow is soft and loose with no sloughing. A party of 4 starts up the apron far behind us. Entering the bottom of the couloir, we are still feeling good about the snow. The strong gusts of wind blow up slope. About halfway up the couloir, maybe only a third of the way up, SW is in front of me and mentions that the snow is so sugary. When I get on it, I notice is all graupel that is pooling in this area. As I kick my boots in, I can see the new snow collapses onto my boot from kicking my boot in underneath it. The snow is soft and only the snow directly above my boot breaks. I mention to SW that this will be big sloughing, that we’ll definitely have to manage it. He agrees, but we’re not alarmed. I can see the upper portion of the couloir is hard to see due to blowing wind. What looked like clouds from down low, is now looking like blowing snow. We’re still well below the upper portion, I’m starting to suspect that the upper portion may be loaded and that I may not be riding the upper portion; we’ll see what the snow is doing as we get closer. Around 2/3 of the way up, it’s obvious that the upper portion is not in the clouds, but it’s graupel that is being blown downslope so thick that it looks like clouds and completely hides the upper portion from view and the gusts come through frequently. We notice there is now a soft wind slab and another soft slab, each about 2-3”. LJ switched from booting to skinning in the upper most alcove and is now in the upper portion. SW makes it to the alcove, and I’m still coming up. I hear LJ yell to SW that he got a crack across the couloir, that it’s a shallow slab, and yells to me to move to a safe spot. I yell that I have nowhere to go, so I try to get to the alcove with SW as quickly as possible. I see LJ continuing skinning slowly as I’m still making my way to the alcove. I reach the alcove and am now with SW. The party of 4 is still well below, but well in the couloir now. SW and I discuss the snow, and we mention that we wish LJ wasn’t so far ahead because it’s so hard to yell back and forth and have a conversation about what’s going on. I watch SW do a hand pit; two soft slabs, the top one about 2” and SW says the bottom one directly beneath the top soft slab is more like 6”. I tell SW that with the full width crack that LJ got, I’m not sure if I’m going to be going any higher. The party of 4 seems to have stopped at an alcove, and it looks like one of their members keeps poking out to look up, just as I keep poking out to look down and up. The plan is to ascend one at a time, SW has his split-skis on the snow getting ready to strap in, and I’m still thinking about my final decision since I’m now hesitating about continuing. LJ screams, then yells “Avy!”, I turn my head and yell “avalanche!” for the party below us, turn my head back upslope, see loose snow in the air, then brushing my left shoulder. My hands and feet are in the snow holding on (hands may be holding the poles, I have no recollection about what my hands were holding). For the first half second or so after LJ’s scream, I’m thinking it’s just a small loose slough. As I see the snow coming, I can’t believe it’s happening, and the snow rapidly pulls harder on me, and I’m pulled into it. All the stories of trauma enter my mind. I’m going to break limbs, crush my chest, bend legs in unimaginable positions, and be bent completely in half backwards. I’m tumbling. A flash of the rock wall. Snow is shoved into my mouth all the way to the back of my throat, and I can get zero oxygen and realize I’m going to die slowly by asphyxiation. I can breathe. I tumble. A flash of rock and I stick my arm out to avoid being pushed against it. Head buried in snow. Snow packs my mouth again, and again I’m going to asphyxiate. I can breathe again. I manage to get my avalung in my mouth. I swim. Somehow I am rapidly on top, feet first sitting up sliding with the snow and it comes to a stop. The snow has stopped moving. Up and down I see no one. I yell “Hello! Is anybody there!” It feels like I’ve been screaming all day – the back of my throat is raw. I yell again, and again no response. I have 6 people who are dying. Beacon on search. Where do I start? Point of last known; point of last known is about 800’ up. I have no beacon signals. It is not possible to search up 800’ and still save anyone. I see a person standing up and moving in a red jacket; SW. I see a person next to him in dark clothing; LJ. I yell we need to do a search, we’re missing the party of 4, I’m not getting any signals. I see someone down low; a member from the party of 4. I yell, asking where is the rest of him team; I don’t get an answer to that, maybe because he’s yelling something at me. SW and LJ up above still don’t respond to my yells even though they are moving; maybe they can’t hear me. My right knee feels like it’s been scraped, and I start moving down with no glove on my left hand. I’m going to get frostbite and lose my fingers. I can’t stop, I need to search, there’s no time to take my pack off and fumble for a glove, don’t take the avalung out of my mouth. The guy down low from the party of 4 asks if everyone is accounted for; I yell back “yes!” I’m searching downslope; I can search downslope faster and might be able to save only one person. Three people are missing. The guy down low yells he needs me to come down, that his head is bleeding and he broke his arm. I yell we need to search. The guy down low says something to me that gets me really confused, so I ask who he is. He responds LJ, that he was with SW and I. I get close to him and say that we need to search, we’re missing 3 people. We’re essentially at the toe, and search, but don’t get any signals. After seeing the two people above me, on my way down I’m assuming they are searching. I don’t know what the timeframe is, but SW and a member of the party of 4 are now close enough, and we learn that the party of 4 was all up there, all OK, with SW. Somehow, everyone is accounted for. Somehow, the party of 4 was in an alcove and did not get pulled into the slide. LJ says “I really need medical attention,” and I notice he is nervous and getting anxious. I worry that his head injury may be affecting his behavior, but after some quick questions and directions, he is fully aware of what is going on. Since he is fully aware and capable of moving under his own power, I direct him that we need to keep moving down slope and to a safer area before I treat his arm and bleeding forehead. I determined his injuries could wait; I was worried that the debris isn’t stable. Two more guys are headed up the apron. LJ yells to them that it just ripped pretty big. I yell that we need first aid. We reach them, and we move downslope to a safer spot where we changed on the way up from skinning to booting. I send the two guys to head down and get a snowmobile up to get LJ to the car. I determine LJ’s worst injury is his elbow, and wrap his elbow and get it in a sling, then wrap his forehead. He has calmed down now compared to when I noticed he was getting anxious. His condition does not worsen. I start down again, and shortly after I have to stop, plop on the ground and cry. Logan is ok. Heavy sobs. A deep breath, and I continue. I can’t believe no one was buried. Cried a few more times that evening. Cried today when I told my coworkers. Still a lot to process. Still not able to comprehend all that happened. LJ was carried about 1200’, I was carried about 600’ maybe as a rough estimate, and SW was carried around 200-300’. My friend, Snowvols, posted his account of it in the Splitboard Talk Forum location. March 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm #675729 marran 18 Posts Thanks to both of you for sharing and I’m happy you made it, from the pictures it looks like a really narrow chute. March 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm #675730 wasatch surf 979 Posts thanks for sharing Ryan. gnarly. March 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm #675731 buckchow 356 Posts So glad you are OK, Ryan. Thanks for posting such a detailed examination. March 5, 2014 at 12:30 am #675732 Snurfer 1438 Posts Glad you are okay Ryan, I didn’t realize you were also caught. Scary shit. In hindsight is there any point that given a ‘do over’ you’d have pulled the plug? I only ask, because I was cringing after the second sentence and full on spooked by the second paragraph. Obviously I have the luxury of armchair quarterbacking and I have an extremely low acceptance of avy risk. I’m just curious to know if, and to what degree such a traumatic experience changes ones objectives and risk acceptance.Or if it does at all. I totally understand if you prefer not make any further comments about it, thanks for sharing your experience with us. @topodojo IG Shark Snowsurf Chuna Voile V-Tail 170 BC Voile One Ninety Five Spark R&D Arc March 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm #675733 SPLITRIPPIN 709 Posts Thanks for sharing….I’m glad it all turned out good. March 7, 2014 at 12:44 am #675734 ryan14410 21 Posts @snurfer wrote: Glad you are okay Ryan, I didn’t realize you were also caught. Scary shit. In hindsight is there any point that given a ‘do over’ you’d have pulled the plug? I only ask, because I was cringing after the second sentence and full on spooked by the second paragraph. Obviously I have the luxury of armchair quarterbacking and I have an extremely low acceptance of avy risk. I’m just curious to know if, and to what degree such a traumatic experience changes ones objectives and risk acceptance.Or if it does at all. I totally understand if you prefer not make any further comments about it, thanks for sharing your experience with us. While there is a snow storm going on or even the day after one, I’ve never attempted a line like that, never bother to even think of attempting one, and generally enjoy the new snow up Mill D North. Snowing to me means new load on the snow, sloughing, instabilities… My attitude on this outing was to see how the snow is, and to continue if it’s good. I pushed through all my typical conservatism. I’m usually the one to turn around or hesitate first. Down low on the apron, didn’t have any worries. Even the bottom portion of the couloir. When I saw the wind in the upper couloir, I figured we would be putting that off limits. When we got to the area that had all that graupel pooling in one area, for me, I think that’s where I should have called it for sure. I usually don’t even want to deal with sloughing in case it turned into a large enough slough to carry you. So, 1) snowing and blowing during the night, even if not during the night but during our way up, is usually where I go to safer terrain 2) normally, if seeing the wind blowing up high like that, I would have said that I’m not going up there and ride down while the snow was still good, maybe ascend just a bit more 3) if continuing up a bit more, turning around at that graupel pool, BEFORE GETTING TO THE BASE OF IT, would have been my last step It seems that generally, I get freaked out easier/quicker than others, and call it off first. March 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm #675735 bryman 9 Posts Thanks for posting. Did you hear anything from the lower group of four? I also noticed that SW mentioned another group later that same day that also got the couloir to move — any info on their experience? Thx -b Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total) You must be logged in to reply to this topic.