Oct 29, 2012, 9:12 PM
Post #1 of 1
Registered: Sep 14, 2001
It's ice climbing season in the Rockies again... avalanche season too already. Myself and a buddy headed into Ranger Creek yesterday to climb R&D but ended up getting avalanched from above. My buddy got knocked off his feet while belaying me and lost some gear. We're kinda hoping someone comes across it and returns it. Here's what happened.
It was just getting light as we left the car, it was relatively calm winds and no sign of any snow falling. Snow depth was relatively shallow on the approach, with underlying rocks still barely buried. There looked to have been at least a couple of parties having been up there judging by tracks on the final slopes and not even really filled in. As we got closer to the climbs things still seemed benign and certainly nothing to set off any alarm bells. Gearing up we started getting sprinkled with spindrift. Likewise leading up the first half of the climb, the spindrift was more annoying than bad. By the time I reached the 3/4 mark I got a new round of spindrift that suddenly got intense. I was getting pummelled, above my last screw, locked off with bent arms, and the rope was pulling down on me hard. Thank fuck for leashes, don't ever try telling me they're old school or passe.
After the avalanche finally stopped, I banged a screw in and re-evaluated. My partner had been knocked off his feet but was ok. there was a chance the ramp above had been cleared out now, it was probably quicker to finish the last of the climb as the angle eased off, than to start messing with screws and v-threads. I gained the anchor, rapped and cleaned. Meanwhile a second party had come up and headed over to Chalice. Having arrived later, after arriving at the base they started getting heavier spindrift but no avi initially so they came over to R&D. After I was back on the ground we started seeing more avi starting on other paths. Everyone decided it was time to retreat.
Unfortunately my belayer was unable to grab his pack as he was knocked off his feet and actually lost his pack, a tool, and a trekking pole. His pack contained his wallet, cell phone, and other lesser important items. The tool was a BD, maybe a viper. The pack was an Arcteryx Bora. We rapped the gulley below the climb looking for it but didn't linger too long. The other party helped comb through the runout debris trying to find the gear and a big thanks to Steve and Peter for looking.
Having lost his phone, it would be easier to contact me than my belayer. If anyone finds any of the gear, it would be marvelous to get it back. I think a generous reward of beer and free karma points will be coming your way. You can get hold of me here or via PM.
By the time we got back to the car it was definitely windier and more snow transport was now visible up higher so yes conditions change. It's easy to sit back and decide a different call was in order - in retrospect. However at the time it was a case of hazard increasing gradually after starting the climb. It was unfortunate that the first avi came from above and not off to the side as a warning. It does serve as a warning to others for the next couple of days though. We seem to have entered a natural avi cycle in Ranger Creek and likely the surrounding area. Consider this if you have plans to go there soon.
We weren't the first party to get avalanched in Ranger, we won't be the last. Evaluation of the approach slopes gave no concern, no visible transport, shallow snowpack, all counted for nothing because the hazard was overhead and changed when we could no longer see it. We got lucky, the pack didn't. I'm glad it was a pack that was buried and not a partner. We were relatively unscathed.
So yeah, beer and karma points for anyone coming across the gear and returning it.