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Avalanche Death, Sequoia Park

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Avalanche Death, Sequoia Park

Postby gdurkee » Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:19 pm

I've got no further details on this. Maybe Skibum will show up with what he knows:

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (CA)
Skier Killed By Avalanche

Morgan Cowles, 39, of Santa Barbara, California, was caught and buried by an avalanche in upper Tokopah Canyon in Sequoia NP on Monday, January 28th. Cowles and companion Jason Gardner were skiing through the area at the time. Gardner uncovered Cowles, but he had already expired. Gardner was found shortly after the avalanche and was in good condition. Additional details are pending. [Submitted by Kip Knapp, Acting Chief Ranger]

In 30+ years, I can't remember any backcountry avalanche deaths in either Sequoia Kings or Yosemite (though there was a death in Kings about 15 years ago that might well have been from an avalanche. Also, a road crewman was killed in Yosemite plowing the Tioga Road).

If I hear anything else, I'll send it it. Eastern Sierra conditions are rated CONSIDERABLE right now. Remember that this whole week has fallen onto old crust. Not sure how well it's bonding. Maybe Snow Nymph has some thoughts... .



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Postby hikerduane » Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:06 pm

Carol emailed me, I believe one of the souls was one of your own, a FS employee on the San Bernadino.:(
Piece of cake.
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Postby Snow Nymph » Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:18 am

Scary stuff out there! We’re wearing beacons and carrying avy gear, but I’m also going with experienced skiers and learning. I’m watching how they check the terrain, make decisions, and discuss what they’re seeing as we go along. I took the avy class 2 years ago, but have not been out to get ‘experience’.

On Saturday we stayed in the trees. I measured slope angle once and it was 20 deg. Up higher it got steeper. Bullet kept checking the snow. We didn’t have much wind where we were, and it was beautiful with the snow falling on us. But at the summit as we were leaving, I noticed a 1” layer that cracked and slid off the side of a small hill as I traversed to descend. That was the most we saw.

But on Sunday, we were out only an hour, and we noticed the snow was cracking as we got to the top of the rolling hills. After talking a few minutes we decided to turn back. So it was a short day, probably best not to be out.

George, I have a lot to learn about this still. And probably won't be doing any splitboarding til things settle.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison

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Postby Trekker » Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:18 am

Snowy sent me the article and reminded me that I was considering going to that location that exact same weekend! :eek: When I saw the weather reports, I knew that it wasn't happening!
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Postby will_jrob » Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:28 am

A bit more information from NPS.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (CA)*
*Update On Avalanche Fatality*

Additional details have been received on the avalanche fatality reported
yesterday. Late on Sunday night, the park received a report that two winter
travelers were overdue from a winter backcountry trip in Sequoia National
Park. A search and rescue effort began immediately. Early on Monday morning,
two teams of rescuers with advanced technical winter travel skills began
skiing from Wolverton, near Giant Forest, toward the Pear Lake ski hut,
looking for signs of the two men. About five hours later, searchers located
the body of Morgan Cowles, 39, among trees at the bottom of an avalanche
chute. A medical assessment was conducted, but no sign of life was found.
The two rescue teams then joined and followed the tracks of the second man,
who was found in good condition and escorted out of the backcountry by the
team. The two men had spent Saturday night at the Pear Lake Ski Hut,
approximately six miles from Wolverton. On Sunday, they left the hut,
intending to ski and snowboard out, but were caught in a severe snow and
windstorm that caused whiteout conditions. They were carrying a tent and
camping gear and camped overnight at Heather Lake, approximately four miles
from Wolverton. They set out again on Monday morning but lost the trail.
They were crossing a steep slope where the avalanche occurred. The initial
investigation indicates that both men were swept more than 200 yard
downslope in the avalanche. Both men were experienced in safe winter
over-snow travel and knowledgeable about avalanches. Each was equipped with
an avalanche beacon. They appeared to have followed safe practices for
traveling in avalanche zones. However, with the recent heavy snowfall after
a significant rain earlier in the week, conditions were especially unstable
at the time the avalanche occurred. These conditions delayed recovery of the
body until Tuesday. A team comprised of six members of the Tulare County
Sheriff's Office search and rescue team, four rangers and two local
volunteer search and rescuers, with the assistance of a helicopter,
recovered the body and transferred it to the Tulare County coroner. Parks
staff can recall no avalanche deaths in Sequoia and Kings Canyon in the past
several decades, though the southern Sierra Nevadas often have high
avalanche danger. [Submitted by Alexandra Picavet, Public Affairs
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Seki Avalanch Death

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 04, 2008 8:36 pm


you talking about the one above the tablelands? If so that might have been almost exactly 20 years ago. Lucky me got involved in the recovery--in early august!
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Postby gdurkee » Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:31 pm

OldRanger (though not as old as some...):

Yep. That would be bit-o-bob Lake. Didn't know you were there... .

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