Close Call in Ledge Basin
Sea to Sky
Eddy Van Der Kloot , Friday 22nd April, 2022 10:25PM
Day started warm and sunny. Cloud rolled in early afternoon. Solar aspects and lower elevations were mashed potatoes. Mellow northerly snow was getting wet by 1pm, but the steeper protected northerly couloirs seemed to still be holding winter snow.
Snow conditions were: Heavy, Powder, Wet. Weather conditions were: Cloudy, Sunny, Warm.
Avalache Conditions: Slab avalanches today or yesterday. Rapid temperature rise to near zero degrees or wet surface snow.
We (3 skiers) went out hoping to ski the Ledge Couloir this morning. When we arrived at the base of the couloir a party of two had just transitioned and begun booting up the couloir. They were wallowing in deep snow and gladly accepted our offer to help put in a bootpack. We pulled off mostly to the side of the couloir, did a quick hand shear (finding a layer 10cm down (recent storm snow) that was moving easily, and a more resistant layer 30cm down), and began to transition to booting. We were not especially concerned about the 30cm down layer, but discussed the possibility of turning around mid-couloir if the new snow layer was deeper up higher with wind loading. A neighboring couloir had a recent crown line in it that appeared to be 5-10cm high, and did not step down to the 30cm deep layer, giving us some confidence. The lookers right wall of the couloir was in the sun and shedding snow, sending small loose wet sloughs down the couloir. We weren't particularly worried about these as they did not appear large enough to knock us off our feet. While we were still transitioning, the party ahead mentioned that a larger slough was coming down. By the time it reached us it was large (size 2) and roaring down the couloir. One of the party of two was caught in the avalanche and carried ~70m downhill. I believe he mentioned that he was at some point fully buried, but he came to rest on top of the debris with no injuries, and suffered only a lost ski pole. The other managed to jump out of the way of the slide and was not carried. Our party was not hit by the slide, but one of our members had his skis and pack (which were off for the transition) swept down in the slide. Luckily we were able to recover them. It was difficult to tell exactly where the small slough put enough stress on the slope to cause a slab avalanche due to flat light and the shape of the couloir. A ~30cm crown was visible near the bottom of the couloir, but there may have been another above. While the avalanche started as a small loose wet slide, the fracture line was in cold wintery snow, most likely storm/wind slab. None of the other nearby couloirs had any significant avalanche activity, even Gunsight which has significant hangfire in the sun. A lone snowboarder rode the couloir to lookers right (Ledge Flank?) and did not trigger anything. We briefly searched for the missing gear and gathered the fallen skis, and then headed home with tails tucked between legs.
See incident report.