Revelstoke Avalanche at Keystone

tasco

Active member
Joined
Dec 2, 2007
Messages
95
Reaction score
4
Location
High River
This is a Cut and paste from a post on Snow West. I don't know if it is appropriate or not. Mod's you may remove this thread if you like.

My condolences to all the the family that lost a member. And my prayers go out to you. Also to all those that were involved in the rescue I am sure that you did everything that was possible.

#1 Today, 12:49 PM
glaciertim
Junior Member Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 2


Revelstoke Avalanche at Keystone

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I never thought it would happen to me.

This trip began like so many others. Before I left home, I checked the BC avalanche website and saw that the avalanche danger was "considerable" in Revelstoke. In the back of my mind, I knew there have been 12 avalanche deaths in BC so far this year, and these numbers can't be ignored. My little girl stood at the front door of the house as I hugged the family goodbye and said, "Dad, if you get in an avalanche, you have to fight, fight, fight and make sure you live!" She clenched her little fists to drive the point home.

I had her voice in my head as we began our day of riding at Keystone in Revelstoke on Saturday February 16th. I had connected with a large group of about 12 riders, most of whom were from Alberta, and we began the long ride in to the back country where the best riding areas are. The weather was not good, as we were riding in the clouds, but it was supposed to improve by the afternoon.

There was little evidence of avalanche activity. I saw two or three slides that didn't look fresh, and this gave me a certain level of what I now know was false comfort.

At about 2:00 PM the group had traveled way back into a massive bowl. Some of the riders were sitting at the bottom of the bowl, and others were high marking up the sides of incredibly steep and long mountain sides. We were situated below the cloud line, and the mountains disappeared into the clouds way above us. We couldn't see just how high these particular slopes were or how they were shaped. For all we knew, an avalanche could be triggered way above the cloud line and beyond our view, and we were sitting in a terrain trap below directly in its path. This made me nervous. I didn't like the entire setup, but I ignored my intuition and stayed with the group. There seems to be a false sense of security when other people are around. What a mistake.

I joined up with about four riders who were climbing up a steep chute, almost like a ravine. This chute was about 60 meters long from top to bottom. At the top, the terrain was shaped like a bit of a funnel. The four of us were taking runs up the chute as high was we could go, then pulling out at the last second and coming back down. With each run, we would get a bit higher.

After a few runs, I stopped my sled at the bottom of the chute to take a break. I had read once in an avalanche saftey brochure from Alaska that you should always leave your run-stop switch up and have an escape route. I remembered this, and pointed my sled in the direction of an avenue of escape with the switch up. I watched as Randy from the group made a final pull with a large loop at the top. While he was cutting his loop, a second rider came in from the side while cutting a long sidehill right across the top of the chute. And then it happened. There was no sound that I could hear. The snow just started moving all at once. I screamed, "Avalanche", pulled my starter, and pinned it towards safety. I took one glance back and saw a sled on its side moving down the chute in a torrent of moving blocks of snow. Other riders later told me that the second my sled left the spot where I was sitting, the area was covered with a massive dust cloud. When I stopped I looked back and saw a massive pile of snow where I had been sitting. Further, Randy who was cutting his loop at the top of his run when the avy started saw the snow moving directy in front of his path like a raging whitewater river. He miraculously managed to stop his sled on the steep hill just meters from the edge of the torrent which saved him from being pulled into it. But where was that second rider? And where was the sled I had seen going down on its side. I looked at the massive debris pile and couldn't see the sled or rider. It took half a second to register - we had a burial.

The avalanche seems to have been triggered by the rider himself. It looked like his sidehill cut the snow like a knife. The snow below him slid first, then the snow above him followed. The avalanche was in the shape of a capital 'Y". It looked to be about 150 meters across at the top with a one meter deep fracture line. All the snow funnelled into the chute where it piled up at the bottom of the 'Y". This is where our rider was buried.

The frantic efforts of the entire group quickly began. With shouts and screams we pulled the group together. I had my two-antenna beacon out and I started the stopwatch on my watch immediately. The first challenge was to get everyone's beacon out of send mode. I picked up the buried rider's signal right away as I huffed and puffed up the steep debris pile. First it was 40 meters, then 30, then 20, and finally down to 2.5 meters. I was reasonably certain he was 2.5 meters below the point where I was standing. We began frantically probing and found the sled immediately below the point the beacon was indicating on. We dug down and realized that the rider had to have been buried under the sled. We dug out the sled and pulled it out of the way. It was exhausting work. Finally, at a depth of about eight feet, we found the rider's head at the 19 minute mark. We pulled his helmet off and continued to dig him out. He was unresponsive and looked blue-ish. We pulled him to a flat surface and began CPR at 21 minutes. It was not something I ever thought I would be doing on a sledding trip.

When we realized that we had a rider buried, two of our best riders rode out for help to find other riders with a satellite phone. Eventually they did, but there was some problem with the phone not aquiring a sattelite. By the time they got it working, they were communicating with other members from our group using an FRS radio. The GPS coordinates were given and we were told that paramedics were coming in a helicopter. But by this time, it had been one hour and 40 minutes since we started CPR. All of us were holding on to the hope that if the paramedics came with the paddles, they might be able to jump start his heart - so we wouldn't stop. Colour had returned to his face because we were keeping his blood supply moving. But now it was starting to get dark. We were a good two hour ride from our trucks. We had numerous steep pulls to make just to get out of our area. Finally when it was now so dark that none of us thought a helicopter would fly, we called it. We had been conducting CPR for 2 1/2 hours. It was such a sad moment; the realization that everything we had done, all our efforts, all our emotion, all our first aid, all our commitment to this rider...it wasn't enough. We couldn't bring him back. There was nothing more we could do. I felt physically sick. I'm sure we all did. There were many tears that flowed that afternoon.

We covered the victim up and prepared to leave. Then, to our suprise, five minutes after we stopped CPR a helicopter arrived. I couldn't believe it because it was 5:30 and we could hardly see. What if the paramedics were inside with the paddles? What if there was still a chance to save the victim? But once the chopper landed we saw it contained only the pilot and an RCMP officer. They were just there to pick up the body. We loaded him up and like a flash they were off. Later I learned that the police had informed the parmedics that we had been performing CPR for 1:40 when the call came in, and the paramedics told them it was too late, they wouldn't be attending. But because of the communications breakdown, they couldn't get the message back to us.

Our ride back out was somber. It was pitch black, and suffice to say all of us were exhausted - both emotionally and physically.

There are a few things I have learned from this experience:

1. Trust your instincts. My intuition was telling me the bowl we were in wasn't safe. I shouldn't have gone in to join the group.

2. Read the terrain. If it looks like an avalanche trap, then get out. Just because it hasn't slid yet doesn't mean it won't.

3. Leave yourself a way out. Leaving my sled pointed in a safe direction with the run-stop switch up saved my life.

4. Become avalanche trained. If I ever go sledding again, I'm going to take a course. At this point, I think my sledding days are over.

5. Life is so precious. Live life to the fullest. Love your family. Get your heart right with God. We can go at any time.

The identity of the victim hasn't been made public. My heart and prayers go out to his family. We did everything we could.
 

catmando

Super Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
8,814
Reaction score
5,545
Location
Edmonton
My heart felt condolences to the family and the people who did there best to save him.A very sad day.
catmando!
 

flatlandguy

Active member
Joined
Dec 7, 2006
Messages
140
Reaction score
0
Location
Blaine Lake,Sk.
My condolences to the family and friends of the victim and to all those who tried so hard to save him. This is so classic of what we were taught in the avy course. I hope I never have to do it for real. Play safe out there people.
 

medler

I love guns
Joined
Aug 6, 2007
Messages
17,175
Reaction score
7,451
Location
Stettler Alberta
Yes that is a terrible thing to have happen to anyone.I can't imagine seeing that happen and knowing that your group and loved ones are unaccounted for ,,,I am sure all of us are thinking about the family.
 

Firefly

Active VIP Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
695
Reaction score
749
Location
Sturgeon County, AB.
Wow! Tough story to read! Thank you for post tasco. My Condolences to the Family and Friends of the victim. The avalance stories always touch so close to home. As careful as we can be there will always be a risk. Ride safe everyone!
 

glengine

Active VIP Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2008
Messages
3,724
Reaction score
1,160
Location
Smithers, B.C.
Condolences go out to the family of the fallen rider. And also to the people that did all that they could to try and save him.. It is a sad sad day when you hear about a sledder that wont be able to make another trip to the hills.. And the family that he's left behind..
 

OVERKILL 19

Active VIP Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2006
Messages
3,425
Reaction score
1,927
Location
Red Deer
My heart felt condolences to the family and friends. To the fellas that did CPR for that long you should be proud of yourselves, you did all you could do. Sad sad day.
 

cinderella699

New member
Joined
Jun 3, 2007
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Location
salmon arm
My heart and thoughts go out to the family and friends of the lost sledder at this very hard time. I have lost a friend to an avalanche as well. And to the fellow sledders that were there that day I'm sure you did everything possible.
 

NosRX1

Active VIP Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2007
Messages
2,487
Reaction score
535
Location
Sundre
Wow very sombering story.....my condolences go out to everyone involved:(
 

Rider38

Active VIP Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2007
Messages
207
Reaction score
0
Location
Sherwood Park
Incredible and heart wrenching story Our condolences to the family. And my families gratitude to the people involved in the rescue.
 

GRD

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Messages
2,993
Reaction score
290
Location
Calgary
My condolences go out to the family and friends of the lost sledder! Sad story!
 

Bunn

Active VIP Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2007
Messages
318
Reaction score
256
Location
Calgary
The name of the gentleman you are talking about is Doug Murry(35) of Cagary.I just heard it on the news.I new him as I serviced his truck all the time.He was a good man....pray for his young family please.
 

tasco

Active member
Joined
Dec 2, 2007
Messages
95
Reaction score
4
Location
High River
His Obituary is printed on Page B-2 of the Calgary Herald. My condolences again

Today's paper
 

Billy Boy

Active VIP Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Messages
688
Reaction score
328
Location
Central Alberta
My condolences to the family. I hope and pray we do not have to read a thread like this the rest of the season or any season. Use your head out there and be careful!!


Billy Boy:cool:
 

JoHNI_T

Active VIP Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
5,718
Reaction score
2,291
Location
Chestermere
My condolences to the family. I hope and pray we do not have to read a thread like this the rest of the season or any season. Use your head out there and be careful!!


Billy Boy:cool:

I agree lets be extra careful!

and the part that stuck in my head about this story is the fact they were climbing this chute SEVERAL TIMES and it let lose after many pulls, never be to confident in what we are riding I guess,
thanks for the thread it keeps us all in check I hope.
 
Top Bottom