In the beginning of the freeride season we share report about avalanche incident happened near Elbrus last winter to remind everyone about bad decision making and risk management.
Knowledge about avalanches, good rout finding and rescue skills together with proper decision making, are necessary for everyone in the backcountry.
This foto is made in June 2015, so there is no snow. But terrain is well seen, with ice, where avalanche started.
Russia, Caucasus, near Elbrus, Cheget mountain, Semerka glacier.
Altitude: 2400 m
Slope aspect: East
1st of January: snowfall, 120-150 cm, without wind
2nd of January: clear, medium west wind, t: -5-7 C
In accident date: medium west wind, t: -5C, cloudy, sometimes with bad visibility
Overall avalanche hazard: considerable
The group of 10 skiers went for a walk to Donguz-Orun lake, and on return way went through Semerka glacier. Descend using traction skins and snowshooses by the edge of stones prominent from snow. Further it was discovered that these stones marked the beginning of steep ice slope, which was the end of Semerka glacier.
Leader moved traverse near stones, descended through ridge to the flat place, and below morene moved traverse to couloir. He was waiting the group there. Other skiers were moving to the ridge at this moment.
8th skier triggered avalanche. Avalanche reached the leader, and moved him by 100 m. Deep of burial 70-90 cm. After 20 seconds leader got out of avalanche himself. One ski was lost.
Out of piste skiing in bad visibility and considerable avalanche hazard.
Underestimation of particular terrain hazard – leader was below descending group.
White line – group path.
Red line – fracture line
Mark – leader’s place when avalanche started
Size D3, fracture line’s length – 200 m, depth – 50-150 cm, avalanche length – 400 m.
Weak layer – deep hoar in old snow near ice.
Main part of avalanche snow stayed and stopped above morene, and just little snow reached leader. Avalanche was rather slow, and snow density was very low, that’s why leader could get out from avalanche himself.
All skiers had rescue kit and skills.
After avalanche group assured that there wasn’t hazard of second avalanche. After that they organized search of equipment. 2 ski poles and 1 ski were found.
Leader descended with snowshooses.
Group descended before darkness.
P.S. There is one tragedy this season already near Terskol Peak. Please, be careful and stay safe!