Accident: Chugach State Park

Location: Flattop, Summer Trail

Wed, February 8th, 2006
Snowshoer buried and killed on Flattop summer trail.
Accident Report

Anchorage Daily News
Published: February 9, 2006

A snowshoer was killed Wednesday night when an avalanche swept down from the slopes of a gully beside Flattop Mountain, authorities said.

Authorities said the snowshoer was buried in an area popularly known as Boy Scout Gully, which for years has been a concern of Chugach State Park rangers because of its easy accessibility and the boom in popularity of backcountry snowboarding and skiing. The region is one of the most popular recreational areas, both in the winter and in the summer, in the Anchorage vicinity.

Anchorage city manager Denis LeBlanc, who was on the scene Wednesday night, said searchers began a massive effort that ultimately involved the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, the Nordic Ski Patrol, the Anchorage Fire Department and the Alaska State Troopers after a snowshoer reported about 7:30 p.m. that a friend had been swept away by the sliding snow and was missing.

Searchers probed the snow and brought in dogs to help. They reported about 9:30 p.m. that one of the dogs had located the body of the missing man.

“You know, life is so fragile,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a beautiful night tonight. And Alaskans were out doing what Alaskans love to do. It’s just a tragedy.”

Authorities on the scene said one of the snowshoers somehow triggered the slide.

The dead man, whose body was flown off the range in a helicopter, had not been identified late Wednesday night.

The avalanche occurred within a mile of the Glen Alps parking lot. “It just goes to show you the mess you can get into right out of the parking lot,” said William Laxson with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and who was involved in the search effort.

Soren Orley, also with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, said it appeared the two snowshoers were en route back to the Glen Alps parking lot and were about 100 feet apart when the avalanche occurred. He said high winds of recent days had loaded the slopes of the gully, which is between Blueberry Hill and Flattop, with snow.

“It was an area that frequently avalanches,” said Bill Romberg of Alaska Mountain Rescue Group. “It’s not a spot to mess with.”

Romberg said the slide appeared to be about 200 yards wide. He said the snowshoers carried no rescue gear with them — no avalanche beacons, no shovels, no probes.

Authorities said the two were the only ones who appeared to be in the area when the avalanche occurred.