Kaleb Timberlake: A close call in the snow points to high avy danger
December 13, 2010
Recent days have seen very high avy danger in Colorado, you didn’t have to check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to see that. Heavy wind, lots of fresh snow, near whiteout conditions.
We went out recently and took it easy, not touching any big hills, honestly – not touching any hills with snow on them. I was on a 10-15 degree slope, just starting to roll over to a chute, I realized I was in the wrong place (horrid visibility; I was off by about 45 degrees from the side where I thought I was) and started to turn around. I was already on the edge of the snow, then saw cracking, so I moved onto the rocks to let it go by.
No big deal … let the little slide go by. After I was out of the way, I got hit by a Freightliner.
I got slammed so hard I ripped my seat off my sled when I came off, went to the bottom, pulled the ABS trigger, then felt/heard it inflating, got raised to the top, face down, and swam to the edge of the slide.
Came to rest about 100 feet later under 6 inches to a foot-and-a-half of snow. I was able to self-rescue.
Seventy feet below me was a cliff that would have destroyed me, period.
Getting to the top of the slide was key, being able to swim kept me alive. Had armor, Leatt brace, and ABS (avalanche airbag system) pack. After being slammed into the ground, I feel all of them played a part.
This was not high-marking, this was not in what we thought was a dangerous place. We were taking a path I’ve been on many times, but with no visibility, I was off of where I thought and I had no idea what we were underneath. Trigger was remote, crown was 12-15 feet and about 150-250 feet away. Debris piles are huge, my 320 probe (larger than average) barely hit the bottom of some and didn’t touch others.
By far the most dangerous slide I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen bigger, but nothing that would throw you over a cliff like this one and still have the amount of snow traveling for as long as it did. Snow was still running nearly a minute after I got up.
Couldn’t get good enough visibility to get a decent shot of the main crown. There was debris that was between house and bus size. This was not some adrenaline-fueled screw-up, the kind of event you can tell yourself you’ll never be stupid enough to be in. This was a simple navigational error that we made on a common snowy day, and it nearly cost me life.
Go get a pack. My sled didn’t make it home today, but I did. That is the difference.
Corrected version: Changes name of letter writer to Kaleb Timberlake.