Colorado Avalanche Information Center: Small avalanche near Berthoud Pass had ‘tragic consequences’
A 57-year-old Boulder man was alone and did not have an avalanche beacon on him when he was killed by avalanche on Saturday.
However, even having a partner might have not been enough to save him, according to a new report produced by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
“(The skier) sustained significant traumatic injuries in the avalanche,” the report explained. “He might not have survived the avalanche even if he was touring with partners able to perform a quick rescue and recovery.”
On Wednesday, the information center released its final report on an avalanche north of Berthoud Pass that killed Dariusz Krol. The center produces reports following avalanches in an attempt to help people better understand them and avoid accidents.
The avalanche occurred Dec. 26 on First Creek, north of the pass. It was the fourth avalanche death this season in Colorado.
The report determined the slide to be a soft slab avalanche triggered by the skier. The information center also found the avalanche was “not large enough to bury and kill a person without the terrain trap it ran through.”
The avalanche took Krol into a dense stand of small trees and buried him under about 10 inches of debris and a tree about 5 inches in diameter.
“This was a small avalanche that produced tragic consequences by washing (Krol) along a path full of obstacles,” the report said.
The skier triggered a persistent soft slab, which forms when a weak snow layer is buried by new snow. The conditions can last long after weather has stabilized, making persistent slabs especially dangerous.
According to the report, Krol began his tour at the Second Creek Trailhead, north of Berthoud Pass. He planned to gain the ridge to the north between Second and First Creek and descend the trailhead at First Creek.
“His companions dropped him off at Second Creek and then drove to the First Creek Trailhead,” the report said. “He climbed to the ridge line, spoke to his companions by cell phone and then descended a narrow, rock walled gully locally known as Chimney Chute.”
Krol was alone and no one witnessed the avalanche. When he did not reach the First Creek Trailhead, his companions called 911.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Grand County Search and Rescue used a drone and the moonlight to evaluate the accident scene. Crews were able to locate the skier using a probe pole.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s forecast for Dec. 26 was moderate danger at all elevations. Krol was on a northern slope, and persistent slab avalanches were the only potential problem listed in that aspect.
“The snowpack in the area was exceptionally weak,” the report said. “(It) was barely strong enough to keep the investigators off the ground as they descended a slope to the skier’s left of the chute.”
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