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Hit by Avalanche—British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Fisher Peak

HIT BY AVALANCHE—British Columbia, Rocky Mountains, Fisher Peak. Chris Sadleir and Bob Bauman (23) and Mavis Bauman were approaching the summit of Fisher Peak on June 6, 1976, when a warm front engulfed the mountain and raised the air temperature by 15-20 degrees F. The weather forecast had been clear and cold. They immediately turned back because of increased avalanche hazard. Most of the descent was protected by pitons in rock, but four rope lengths of snow had to be crossed. They decided to chance it rather than wait for it to freeze at night. B. Bauman was anchoring Sadleir who was belaying M. Bauman. At 1530 hours she had just reached the far side of a rock rib when B. Bauman and Sadleir were swept away by a one-foot deep, three-foot wide slough avalanche, down a 50-degree slope and over a 150-foot headwall. M. Bauman was slammed against the rock rib by the force of the falling pair and fractured her pelvis. The rope between M. Bauman and Sadleir was severed by rock, and they fell 1500 feet before they could self-arrest. The shell of a Compton helmet was fractured by the fall and the shell of an MSR helmet was caved in. Shouting to M. Bauman, they learned that her hip was broken, so B. Bauman went to her and Sadleir went for help. They were safely evacuated by helicopter later that evening. (Source: C. Sadleir.)

Analysis. A snow anchor instead of an ice axe shaft belay may have held when the slide hit. Additionally, crossing the slope under the conditions described was a calculated risk in which the climbers lost. (Source: C. Sadleir and J. Williamson.)