Three people were killed and one person suffered injuries on Feb. 19 after an avalanche struck Washington state’s Cascade Mountains while they were attempting to reach a peak, officials have said.
According to a preliminary report from the Northwest Avalanche Center, a group of six climbers were ascending the Northeast Couloir of Colchuck Peak, an 8,705-foot (2,653 meters) mountain summit located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) east of Seattle in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, on Sunday when the lead climber triggered an avalanche at approximately 1:15 p.m.
The slab avalanche—which occurs when a large, cohesive area of snow slides downwards—caught and carried four members of the team approximately 500 feet to the base of the climb, the Center said.
Three of the climbers suffered fatal traumatic injuries, and a fourth climber sustained leg injuries but survived.
The remaining two climbers tried unsuccessfully to evacuate the individuals that were killed in the avalanche but were unable to do so, officials said. The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office was notified of the accident on Feb. 20 and mountain rescue teams traveled to the site to assist with evacuating the injured climber to the trailhead.
However, a number of other natural avalanches hit the area soon after the incident, making it difficult to conduct search and rescue efforts amid hazardous conditions.
“Recovery efforts will be ongoing this week as weather and avalanche conditions allow. NWAC is working with Chelan County Sheriff’s office, and will provide updates as more information becomes available,” the Northwest Avalanche Center said.
In a separate statement, Chelan County Sheriff Mike Morrison identified the climbers who had been killed as a 60-year-old female from New York, a 66-year-old male from New Jersey, and a 53-year-old male from Connecticut.
Hazardous Conditions Hinder Rescue Efforts
The fourth climber who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was identified as a 56-year-old male from New York. Morrison said he had been able to hike back to base camp with the remaining two climbers after the incident.
The other two climbers who survived the avalanche were identified as a 50-year-old male from New York and a 36-year-old male from New Jersey.
According to Morrison, a seventh climber with the group, a 53-year-old Maryland man, had stayed at base camp that day and was the one who had informed deputies at the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Leavenworth substation about the avalanche after the three survivors reached base camp.
A total of 22 rescuers reached the base camp to assist with the recovery efforts to bring back the surviving climbers.
“They were able to determine avalanche conditions were too hazardous to continue to the deceased climbers,” Morrison said. He added that rescuers were not sent back out the following day because of hazardous conditions.
“CCSO continues to work with Northwest Avalanche Center to assist in a recovery plan,” he said.
Chelan County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Reinfeld said Tuesday that rescuers planned to go back out to search for the deceased climbers on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. He added that the group of climbers caught up in the weekend’s avalanche had some mountaineering experience, but that it was unclear exactly how much.
Approximately nine people have been killed this winter season in avalanches in the United States across the states of Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
In the 2021–2022 winter season, 17 deaths from avalanches were reported and approximately 37 deaths were reported in the 2020–2021 winter season, according to the center.
From The Epoch Times