TNSAR Search 20/02/2005

Avalanche Recovery at Anderson Peak/Benson Hut

Anderson Peak avalanche
Case # 052783

About 11:30 am on Sunday morning the Tahoe Nordic Search and rescue Team was paged for an avalanche rescue at Mount Anderson at the Benson Hut. Brian York called in to be coordinator, and he called out the team snowcat, snowmobiles and skiers. The cat and snowmobiles were to stage at Coldstream canyon and skiers to the Judah Lodge at Sugar Bowl.

There was a group of 11 backcountry skiers staying in the Benson Hut. On Sunday morning the group split up with 7 skiers elsewhere. Three went to climb into the North Bowl of Mt. Anderson, with one remaining in the hut. As the group of three skinned into the bowl just below the rock bands above the hut the entire bowl slid. The crown was from 0.3 to 1 meter deep and the full width of the Easternmost bowl, about 90 meters wide. The slide swept down the open slope and one hundred meters into the trees below. Running perhaps 300 meters. The deposition area was very large and soft. 100 meters wide by 200 meters long.

All three skiers were caught. One partly buried, one buried with a hand above the surface, and one completely buried. The partly buried person extricated himself, found his friendís exposed hand and dug him up. The fourth in the hut came and assisted in the search. The beacon and probe search took about 45 minutes, with several false hits. The burial site was located and the final subject was dug out, dead. The deceased had been swept down through a series of tree bands. All indications were that death was due to trauma. The hole dug at the site was about 1.5 meters deep.

Low clouds prevented helicopter support at the scene during the afternoon. The snowmobiles and snowcat came up coldstream canyon as far as possible with Sheriff Fred Carey to act as Coroner. The 7 TNSAR skiers took the break apart litter and rode the Sugar Bowl lifts to the top of Mt. Lincoln. Visibility was limited at the summit, with moderate winds. The ski team ducked the ropes and followed the ridge lines to Anderson. There were impressive cornices on the North East side of the ridge and several natural slides on northwest exposures into terrain traps. On the way in we met up an unrelated party and then the party of 7 on their way out. About 4:00 pm the team arrived at the Benson Hut where the three remaining companions led us to the site. They had extricated the victim and wrapped the body in a space blanket.

By this time the weather had improved with good visibility and light winds. The CareFlight helicopter arrived, picked up Fred and over flew the scene. They landed at a good L.Z. north of the hut and dropped off Fred who snowshoed to the site. After a few minutes to pay respects the body was loaded into the liter, wrapped in a blue tarp. And skied to the L.Z. CareFlight returned and ferried the body and Fred to the Snowcat in Coldstream below for transport out.

Team skiers and the three remaining party members then skied back to Lincoln and to the Juda Lodge. All members out of the field by about 7:30 pm.

Team member Steve Reynaud submitted avalanche report to the Westwide Accident Report Database.

Below is a further breakdown of the events, by time.

11:29 Placer county dispatch paged TNSAR for SAR
11:30 Brian York calls as TNSAR Coordinator
11:32 page goes out for skier response to Sugar Bowl, Judah Lodge, Mechanized vehicles stage at Coldstream trailhead
1:30 team arrives at command post
1:58 7 skiers deployed into field via chairlift as Nordic 1
2:25 Ray oí Brien at 733678/ 4349826
2:36 Rays snowmobile wonít start
2:55 Nordic skiers at 731908/ 43529583
2:56 talked to RP Dave at 775-224-1357, 7 of the party left the hut for Sugar Bowl 20 minutes ago
3:05 Snow Cat on ridge between north and south forks of Cold Creek requesting direction
3:16 Nordic 1 has meet with 7 party members on ridge
3:24 7 persons continuing to Mt. Lincoln, Paul Cushing (Nordic 4) to meet them at top of Mt. Lincoln
3:41 Kennett called, can see avalanche, 10 minutes away
3:45 Nordic 4 has visual on 7 returning party members
3:50 snowmobiles and snow cats meet at 734036/ 4350964
4:00 Nordic 1 on scene at 733100/ 4349362
4:03 Deputy Carey in helicopter going to avalanche scene
4:09 Nordic 1 calls in LZ at 733213/4349350
4:31 Deputy Carey calls, change of plans due to helicopter fuel concerns. Will drop off victim to snow cat and return for the deputy
5:05 Nordic 1 will arrive at Mt. Lincoln in 15 minutes
6:04 Snow cats and snowmobiles will arrive at Coldstream trailhead in 15 minutes
6:35 All Nordic skiers and party members arrive at command post

A few pictures from the search.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles
Fred Carry
Steve Park
Jackie Thomas
Kelli Twomey
Bill Healy
Russ Viehmann Steve Reynaud
Scott Shane
Mike LeFrancios
Mike Kennett
Bob Wright
Steve Twomey
Mark Johnson
Paul Cushing
Larry Sevison
Dave Gleske
Ray Obrien
TJ Johnson
Fred Carey