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Hugh Conway

Rainier Avalanche

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http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/344157_avalanche20.html

 

Searchers suspend search for snowshoer lost in Mount Rainier avalanche

 

By CAROL SMITH AND JENNIFER LANGSTON

P-I REPORTER

 

Rescuers have suspended the search for a 22-year-old Lynnwood man who disappeared in an avalanche while he was snowshoeing on Mount Rainier Tuesday.

 

Poor weather conditions complicated the search Wednesday for Kirk Reiser, an Edmonds Community College student from the Alderwood area in Lynnwood.

 

Reiser and Troy Metcalf, 23, also from the Alderwood area, set out on snowshoes toward Camp Muir, but turned back close to the tree line, possibly near Panorama Point because of bad weather, high winds and visibility problems, said Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher.

 

"They did the right thing by turning back," Bacher said. The avalanche hazard was labeled "considerable" Tuesday, but not enough for the park to prevent hikers or skiers from tackling the popular route, he said.

 

About 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Reiser was leading the descent when he triggered an avalanche on the mountain's south slope and was swept away. Metcalf searched unsuccessfully for several hours before hiking down to report the incident at dusk.

 

At daybreak, 17 rescuers from the park, from Olympic, Tacoma and Seattle mountain rescue teams and from Crystal Mountain Ski Area began scouring the mountain. The search included two search dogs experienced in avalanche recoveries.

 

The window of survival for someone buried in an avalanche is only 30 minutes, but it's not known whether Reiser was buried or carried away and trying to hike out.

 

Both men are experienced snowshoers and were prepared for a day hike, but not overnight conditions. Neither carried an avalanche beacon, which would have made it easier to locate Reiser, Bacher said.

 

Metcalf was able to lead the search team to the avalanche area he had marked with a ski pole. But deep snow, poor weather and even higher avalanche danger limited what could be done.

 

They narrowed the search to a 3,000-square-foot area near Edith Creek Basin a mile above Paradise at about 6,000 feet, Bacher said.

 

"The conditions continue to be bad in the field, both today and tonight and it looks like tomorrow as well," he said. "So while we do anticipate that there will be some teams out in the field tomorrow (Thursday), we probably will not have large numbers."

 

They plan to wait for a break in the storm cycle, probably on Friday, to resume a wider search and possibly perform some avalanche control work to make the surrounding areas safer for rescuers, he said.

 

Reiser's family members have begun gathering at Longmire. About 50,000 to 100,000 people use the park during the winter for its pristine wilderness. Last year, there was one avalanche fatality in the park.

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They narrowed the search to a 3,000-square-foot area near Edith Creek Basin a mile above Paradise at about 6,000 feet, Bacher said.

 

Damn that just sucks! - and brings it home to me more now.

 

Thats a scary slope to be on during higher avy conditions. Less people around to help than Pan point usually if something breaks loose. I was comming down that slope from Skyline ridge a couple years back when it shot a fifty foot crack out beneath my feet. I carefully back tracked and found the safer (though steeper) route thru the trees to the east.

 

Even the creek crossings in that basin can be sketchy at times with a deep weak snowpack.

 

Peace be to Kirk and his family.

 

 

 

 

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Bad news. I'm crossing my fingers for Kirk, but it doesn't sound good.

 

There's a small ridge about 100 meters to the climber's right of standard route to pan-point that significantly reduces exposure to avalanches.

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It is terrible to hear news like this, very close to home. I was hoping to head up Gib Ledges on Sunday with a team of four, but with Avy conditions as they were opted for Hood instead. The conditions were still heinious, no summit, but plenty of rime. My thoughts go out to the family of this young man.

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Sad and yet avoidable. A few were recently lost east of Crystal Mountain and behind Alpental as well - why not simply wait for favorable conditions?

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favorable conditions happens rarely around here. It snows too much. If you want to get out this time of year, you have to know avi stuff and be able to pick terrain that is less risky. Even then........

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dmuja,

 

I had a similar incident around that area in the winter of 2002-2003. My ski tracks quickly formed an abrupt "ELEVEN" pointing downhill.

 

Mt thoughts and concerns go out to the family of Kirk Reiser.

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We've have had colder than average temps - from around Dec 6th to the 15th, after the rain crust formed In early Dec - which has built surface hoar and some weak snow into the snowpack. Then we got some "heavy" dump on top the weakness.

 

This year is making a strong case for why you should watch the seasonal WX/Temperature trends as well as the daily forecast - that is if you want to find those hidden weaknesses that could bite you. The Cascade snowpack right now IMO is more dangerous and is not your typical "Cascade" snowpack - if there were such a thing.

 

SeaTacTempsWinter07-08.jpg

 

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We've have had colder than average temps - from around Dec 6th to the 15th, after the rain crust formed In early Dec - which has built surface hoar and some weak snow into the snowpack. Then we got some "heavy" dump on top the weakness.

 

This year is making a strong case for why you should watch the seasonal WX/Temperature trends as well as the daily forecast - that is if you want to find those hidden weaknesses that could bite you. The Cascade snowpack right now IMO is more dangerous and is not your typical "Cascade" snowpack - if there were such a thing.

 

SeaTacTempsWinter07-08.jpg

 

Hmm, Let me see if I can interpret your data correctly.

 

(mumbel, mumbel, carry the one, more mumbeling)

 

My conclussion is this, I need to take an avalanche class!

 

 

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My conclussion is this, I need to take an avalanche class!

 

Definitely a good idea for anyone who never has.

And a refresher is a good idea if you have, and it's been a while.

Edited by sobo

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SWAL:

I don't know those folks on the other side of those links from Adam, but they appear to have the right curriculum and mindset. I'd be OK with taking a course from them, but they *are* sorta "out of town..."

 

But you can get a similarly adequate level of instruction by taking the National Ski Patrol's Level 1 avalanche awareness course, which is taught to the same standard as these AAA guys' course. I got my schoolin' from the NSP.

 

Good luck, I hope you take the course somewhere.

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Anyone have any idea where Gary Brill is teaching his avalanche courses this season?

 

He teaches locally; i.e., Seattle area, and without reservation I can wholeheartedly recommend him as a very astute, experienced and knowledgeable avalanche instructor.

 

Listen, everyone; six people have died so far in less than two months in this area: whereas 1 would be too many. Enough said!

 

I concur on the Bruce Tremper book, although possibly somewhat technical for some (fully studied, snow science is a complex subject), with almost too many variables to list.

 

The Jill Fredston, Doug Fesler book, entitled: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard (a little less technical, although quite thorough) is also a recommended read.

 

A little web search revceals that Gary Brill is again teaching his worthwhile classes through the auspices of Vertical World and REI.

 

 

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Yes they have found Kirk today (news reported) - bad start to the season. I think the worse ever for the whole season was like 7 ? so you can see what the current pace is. Condolences to all family and friends.

 

Trempers book is very good and I also highly recommend it!

 

Here is a link to local (Puget sound area) classes (I hope its current) --> http://www.avalanchesafety.org/

 

Gary Brill is definitely the man around Seattle if you can catch him (see the link above, or maybe call REI).

 

For those who would like to, here's a link for creating temperature and precipitation plots for Western Washington----> http://www-k12.atmos.washington.edu/k12/grayskies/nw_wx_climate.html

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Kirk Reiser's body was recovered Friday afternoon, December 21, at the base of Edith Creek falls under about 8 feet of snow. He was still wearing his pack.

 

About 3 dozen or so Mountain Rescue folks from Central Washington, Olympic, Tacoma, Seattle, Snohomish, Everett, and I believe 1 or 2 folks from Bellingham MR assisted the NPS in the probe search.

 

My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

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