By Mike Lynch
A pair of skiers survived an avalanche on Wright Peak Saturday afternoon.
One of the skiers self-rescued and then located and dug out his companion, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
One of the skiers posted about an incident on adkavy.org, which collects snowpack and avalanche observations. Using the name Bryan, he said the skiers triggered the slide from below, and were swept 150 feet and buried. The skiers estimated the avalanche to be 1,500 feet long and 100 feet wide.
Bryan said he was 1-2 feet under the snow but was able to self-rescue in about five minutes. He then used a locator beacon to find his friend, who was about 25-30 feet away and fully buried under 4-5 feet of snow. Bryan then dug out his friend, using his hands and avalanche shovel, in about about 10-15 minutes.
“He was not responsive immediately but breathing faintly,” read the report. “He regained consciousness after his face was exposed for a few minutes while I continued to free the rest of his body.”
The skiers then made their way to the trailhead. No significant injuries were reported.
DEC said the skiers were prepared, but triggered the snow slide.
“Both skiers had proper safety gear including shovels, beacons, and transceivers, and the pair had practiced rescue techniques,” according to the DEC.
Jeremy Knopp, who works at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center, reported the incident to DEC on behalf of the two men Saturday afternoon. They had shared their story and wanted to let the DEC know about the incident, he said. The center is located at the trailhead for Wright Peak.
Knopp said the men lost a ski and three poles, but were calm and didn’t appear injured when he spoke to them.
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Several avalanches have occurred on Wright Peak over the years, both on the original two Angel Slides, created by Hurricane Floyd, and a newer one created in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene. The slides are well known and visible from Marcy Dam.
An avalanche swept away four skiers on Angel Slides in February 2000 and killed one person. The death is the only known avalanche-related fatality in the Adirondacks.
Since then, several skiers have been partially buried on Wright Peak, but they have all self-rescued. Other publicly known avalanches have taken place on Mount Colden, including in the Trap Dike, a popular ice climbing route.
Adkavy.org reported this latest avalanche took place on Angel Slides to the far right. This would be the slide created in 2011.
A report on that website by Jeff Erenstone, who was not involved but knowns Bryan, said Saturday’s “massive” avalanche “could bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a wood frame house, or break a few trees.”
The avalanche followed a warm Friday, when temperatures hit 43 degrees in Lake Placid, according to wunderground.com. Saturday saw a high of 38 degrees.
Adirondack Powder Skier president Ron Konowitz warned backcountry skiers to take proper precautions and to be prepared before heading onto slides in the near future.
“Recent avalanche activity is a real red flag,” he said.
He noted that a weather pattern similar to last weekend is moving into the region later this week, with temperatures above freezing expected.
Forest rangers visited the site Monday and are investigating the potential cause and conditions that led to the avalanche.
DEC warned backcountry users to “use extreme caution and be aware of and prepared for avalanche conditions,” when in steep, open terrain.
To learn more about avalanche safety and conditions, check out DEC’s recent avalanche advisory, issued a couple of weeks ago: https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/124692.html
(Editor’s Note: This story was updated on February 15 with new information about the location of the avalanche. On February 17, it was updated to include more details about the incident.)