Avalanche center warns of danger after Gore Range incident
Backcountry tourer escaped 1,000-foot couloir fall unharmed
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported Friday on social media that two backcountry tourers were caught in an avalanche in steep terrain Thursday in the Gore Range in Summit County.
The avalanche center said the duo was climbing up a couloir when they triggered an avalanche 10 feet above them. One person was swept 1,000 feet down the couloir. The post said the person was fortunate to not be injured and that they were able to get back to the trailhead under their own power.
The post called the avalanche a prime example of what backcountry users will deal with this weekend. That’s because winds have transported snow into thick slabs near ridge tops over weaker and softer layers, the post stated.
“If you think that you can treat extreme terrain like you did last weekend (when the danger was low), you may get surprised,” the avalanche center wrote on social media.
As of Saturday afternoon, avalanche danger in the Vail and Summit County zone was rated moderate (Level 2 of 5) above and near tree line. Avalanche danger was rated low (1 of 5) below tree line.
“You can trigger a dangerous avalanche that breaks 1-to-2 feet deep on north to east to southeast-facing slopes where these slabs have formed,” the avalanche report stated. “Wind-drifted slabs often look smooth or rounded and can be found tucked under cornices or below ridges. Recent reports show this problem is failing on buried weak layers above a crust and may break wider than you’d expect or from a distance away.”
The avalanche center recommended backcountry users stick to lower-angle slopes and avoid wind-drifted areas to significantly reduce chances of triggering an avalanche.
“With warm spring weather and a strong sun overhead, keep an eye on snow surfaces becoming wet and unstable,” the forecast stated. “These changes can happen quickly this time of year but should be held in check by lingering clouds and stronger winds.”
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