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Photo of the Terrible Traverse at a more peaceful time. Photo by Darryl Lloyd, of Long Shadow Photography.

Lyle Skier Survive Close Call On Mount Hood

With the monsoon-like precipitation we’ve been getting in Oregon, the mountains are packed with snow — some of it ready to slide. Jim Minick, of Lyle, had a close call when a snow slope let loose while he was cross-country skiing this weekend. The avalanche rushed towards him and a group of skiers, and…

Well, let Jim tell the story:

“I just wanted to report to everyone that several of us were skiing out east from Bennett Pass at Mt Hood yesterday morning (Sun. Jan. 15th). When we got to the Terrible Traverse no one had broken through yet. Some folks were there looking at it. It was drifted over. Another fellow (him in the lead) and I took off to break it out and open it. I did not have a peeps or a shovel. We made it across fine, though the snow was up to our knees on the uphill side.  Some more folks were coming up behind us, part of a group with Pam in the lead. Cynthia knew her from the Portland Oregon Nordic Club. I decided to go back down and try to talk Cynthia into crossing so we could go on out to Bonnie Butte.

“As I was skiing back down, a lady was coming up from the group. I skiied to just in front of her, then asked her to step down just a little bit. She did and I skiied above her into the drifted snow. All of a sudden the snow above us let loose. 

“It was not from the top, but what there was between the base of the bare rock and the trail. That was enough to sweep us both off our feet. I fell forward, headfirst downhill and was pushed for 30 or 40 feet with my skis tangled up behind me. There was a firm snow layer that I stayed on top of, and so I was very lucky and stayed on top. The lady beside me went the whole distance of the steep pitch: 120 feet. She stayed on top as well, was partly buried, but dug herself out fairly quickly. Another person who was coming up toward us was buried up over her knees where she remained standing.

“We did not check the avalanche report, but someone said that there was an avalanche warning out for yesterday. I had always considered the Traverse too steep to get enough snow to pose a great danger. I guess I have been wrong these many times I have crossed the Traverse, many times alone.

“I am so lucky…”

A close call! How many others of us have skiied, hiked or climbed in places that exposed us to danger? By all means, go to the mountains, that’s good for your soul. But use your head, friends, and come back safe.

Avalanches on Mount Hood have been fatal before. The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has weather forecasts mountain and cameras, and also avalanche education.

Editor’s Note: If you’re a skier, on trail or off, you should check out Off Piste, a backcountry adventure magazine published out of Hood River, and New West’s Snow Blog.

About Dan Richardson

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