Even if you’re an expert, you can never be too safe in the backcountry. It’s something two avalanche Forest Service forecasters learned last week after they triggered a slide.
Last Friday two avalanche forecasters from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center had a close call on Fisher Mountain.
The two forecasters had snowmobiled to an area on the mountain to dig snow pits. “One of them rode and then the second person came, and when the second person was coming, he triggered the avalanche from below.”
"It was a really close call because it was a big avalanche.”
An avalanche trapped bikers on Thursday, May 13. At about 6:30 pm Glacier National Park rangers responded to a report of three bikers who were trapped behind an avalanche near Triple Arches on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Three bikers - a husband and wife along with a friend - traveling up the road encountered an avalanche across the road, turned around, and started back down. Soon after, they encountered a second avalanche in progress. The wife was ahead of her husband and friend and heard the avalanche. She warned her husband and friend to stop. The avalanche came down between them. So the avalanche trapped bikers - the woman’s husband and friend - on the uphill side.
An avalanche south of Cooke City carried three skiers down Republic Mountain, two were injured in the avalanche. One had to be evacuated by helicopter and another was temporarily unconscious and not breathing, according to a report.
In many ways, the skiers had done everything right. All six were carrying beacons and had rescue gear. They had radios to summons help.
However, they did not check the snowpack in the place they decided to ascend the mountain. They had dug a snowpit 2 meters deep to check the likelihood of an avalanche. But a hundred feet off to the side the snowpack changed, with much less snow, only three feet.
“We have a block of harder snow over a section of weak sugary facets of the ground, so we have something over nothing," said Dave Zinn, avalanche expert. "This is the recipe for an avalanche, all you need now is a steep slope and a trigger.”
“Really watch out for those signs of instability -- like shooting cracks. Do some avalanche testing - dig stability tests, do an extended column test, see if you get stable results," said Zinn. "And if you don't see (stable results), find a different slope."