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Mount Snoqualmie

Mount Snoqualmie—On April 18, 1954, William A. Degenhardt (45) and two women Mountaineers were climbing Mt. Snoqualmie, 6300 feet on skis. The party members were experienced ski mountaineers and in good physical condition.

Snow and weather conditions were favorable for avalanche development. Total depth of snow was much greater than average and the season was late with more than average snowfall in April. Previous weather conditions were such that the bond between snow layers was weak. It is known that a hard crust of snow in the mountains formed during the fourth week of March and that on March 25 and 27 dry powder snow fell. This fact is well established since a 15-inch layer of new dry snow avalanched from this crust near the Stevens Pass chair lift on March 27 and buried four skiers (all were rescued within 15 minutes). In later weeks heavier snow fell. Possibly snow in the Snoqualmie avalanche separated at this particular underlayer. The sky was clear on the morning of April 18 and the temperature on the mountain was described as “fairly warm.”

Degenhardt climbed ahead of the other two in skis. As he was two-thirds of the way up on a steep slope on the east side of the main ridge running south from the summit, an avalanche started under his skis and carried him 150 feet down the snow and over some rocks. He suffered bruises and a

fractured pelvis. First aid was administered, one of the women went for help and Degenhardt was evacuated by a Mountain Rescue Council Party, reaching the highway 16 hours after his accident.

Source: Newspaper account. Victor Josendal, Mountaineer 70, 1954.

Analysis: Ski mountaineers must be aware of avalanche conditions in the mountains, and the conditions and terrain that produce them.