Avalanche: Hatcher Pass

Location: Mt. Besh (Holden Hut area)

Route & General Observations

We flew into Holden Hut on March 8 for a 5-day trip with a plan to ski out. On the first day we skied a down-valley run, then the north face of Montana Peak and the East face of Ozone. On day two we skied an East-facing couloir on Mt Besh. On day three (March 10), I triggered and was caught in a large avalanche.

Contact, Location & General Observations
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Forecaster Comments

This zone is out of the HPAC forecast area. Rider thinks slab was 18-24" deep. We are not sure if the Feb 13 drizzle exists in this location. Best guess is a storm slab avalanche on March 10.
Wx history for IM:
3/4 9" of snow .5" SWE
3/9 9" of snow 1.5" of SWE
prior to this we had precip on 2/22

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SkierRemote Trigger No
Avalanche Type Soft SlabAspect Northeast
Elevation 5400ftSlope Angle 45deg
Crown DepthunknownWidth 350ft
Vertical Run 1000ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured? 1
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

As I was caught, and my partner was focused on rescue, we didn’t investigate the crown and these details are our best estimate.

Events of the day

We had toured up from the hut to find north facing lines. There was about a foot of new snow in the past 24 hours. We had enjoyed great snow the previous two days, but we had found shallow reactive new storm slabs on top of sun-affect ok east-facing lines and we discussed avoiding these aspects. We skinned up the southeast flank of Mt Besh to a bench where the line turned more to the east and decided to stop and ski. We had also discussed that the skier’s right side of the run seemed safer because the left had a hollow-feeling “spindrift slab” from the cliffs above. My Partner made a ski-cut to a rock amd stopped; I skied past him into the run. The slope broke above me and immediately took me off my feet. I pulled my airbag and fought mainly to keep snow out of my airway. I hit some very hard objects with both feet.

Rescue events

I came to a stop fully on the surface, head first, face down. My right boot was broken and my right foot and left knee were hurting. My partner was already onto the debris pile and we made visual contact very quickly. He recovered my skis, one of which was broken. My poles were gone. I tried standing and had no success with either leg, so we made the decision for me to crawl the mile back to the hut. We put skins on my skis and I held one ski in each hand and crawled on my knees behind my partner who carried my backpack and broke a trail back and forth to pack it down. The crawl took about two hours, then we waited two days for a weather window to get flown out by the PJs who were awesome!

Photos & Video
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