While hiking in the Front Range of the Chugach, myself and my hiking partner
triggered a wind slab on an isolated snowfield on the southern aspect of the
O’Malley Ridge. I was bootpacking up a section of the snowfield that, in
retrospect, was clearly wind loaded when a 6-10″ deep and 40 foot wide by 30
foot long slab began to slide. Luckily I was only taken for a short ride, but
the debris ran about 700-800 vertical feet down a steep wind scoured gully. It
was triggered on an approximately 35 degree slope.
Looking back at the incident, it was clear that the human factor was the number
one cause. Both myself and my partner have experience with avalanche safety, but
honestly no part of the avalanche risk assessment process entered our minds, as
we were “just going for a hike.” Thinking back to the steps leading up to the
incident, it should have been blatantly obvious to both of us that we were
getting into a dangerous situation. Both of us learned an important lesson,
however obvious it sounds, that whenever you are on steep slopes with any snow
whatsoever, avalanche safety should be part of your route and risk assessment.
Time to put your avy game faces on!