Avalanche: Chugach State Park

Location: Ship Ck. drainage side Hunter Pass

Route & General Observations

A very close call occurred on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. A solo skier, hunting ptarmigan, triggered a very large avalanche and was caught, carried and fully buried. The skier was able to dig themselves out with non-serious injuries. Please take a moment to read their very powerful and intense story. A big thank you to Kevin for sharing his experience and we are so grateful he is OK.

Four days after the avalanche, on March 15th, Chugach State Park ranger Ben Corwin, accompanied by avalanche specialist Blaine Smith, conducted an avalanche investigation. The technical notes below are from them.

*Several pieces of gear were lost in the avalanche. Please send a note to staff@chugachavalanche.org if any gear is found as the snow melts out this spring. Thank you.

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SkierRemote Trigger Yes
Avalanche Type Hard SlabAspect West
Elevation 2500ftSlope Angle 38deg
Crown DepthunknownWidth 600ft
Vertical Run 1500ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried? 1Number Injured? 1
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

This was a large hard slab avalanche that was triggered from below. It was around 600' wide and ran 1,500'. Debris was measured to be 2 meters deep in places. Near the flank of the avalanche a snow pit showed a total snowpack depth of 80cm. Stability test was ECTP 28 SP, failing on facets over the New Years melt-freeze crust.
Avalanche code: ASr-HS-R3D4-O

Above this avalanche, in North Bowl, a large remotely triggered avalanche occurred the day following the avalanche.

Events of the day

By Kevin Lynch (skier/hunter involved)
On Wed. 3/11/20:
Bluebird day! Started from So. Fork. Eagle River trailhead, straight up and over Hunter Pass, down Ship Creek side, looking for ptarmigan and staying on the bottom of the drainage. At one point, I was traversing the lower left side of the drainage, just up from tree/alder line on an approx. 25-30-degree slope. I felt the small telltale collapse of a layer below me, then heard the whole slope above me give way. I looked up and saw a large wall of powder barreling down on me about 800 ft. upslope. OH, CRAP moment! I turned to try to ski down and out, skins were no help, and within seconds, WHAMO! I was enveloped in debris, spitting snow in order to breathe, wind milling hands in front of my face to clear space for when I would stop, I was at the mercy of the snow and gravity. Then everything was quiet! I was encased in snow. I couldn't move anything but my right arm some. I was laying on my side, feet angled down, pack on, whole body immovable. I saw it was brighter above me so I managed to open up a hole above me, reaching daylight. Only my hand and forearm stuck out into the fresh air. I still couldn't move anything else. Feeling uninjured overall, I began enlarging a hole one fistful of snow at a time. I first got my whole arm out, then my head, then my chest, and then my torso. It was slow going, but I knew if I just conserved my energy and kept at it, I could get out. I was able to get my arms out of my pack straps. Now I had two arms to dig with. I kept looking up the slope, afraid of a second release, which would be very unfortunate. It took an hour and a half to dig completely out, handfuls of snow at a time. It was difficult getting to my bindings to get out of my skis, so I could at least stand. That accomplished, I called my wife to let her know I was OK and what had happened. I had a small cut on my forehead and a sore arm. Unbelievable! I dug out my undamaged skis and got to a safe place to rehydrate and snack on fig bars.
The sun never felt so good on my face!
Warning: Don't go out alone, always wear your "pieps" (avalanche beacon), bring your shovel, always let someone know where you're going & keep in touch with regular check-ins if possible.

Photos & Video
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