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Avalanche, Nevada, Spring Mountain Ranch, Kyle Canyon

AVALANCHE

Nevada, Spring Mountain Ranch, Kyle Canyon

On March 24, Russ Peterson (40) an Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. SAR Officer, and J. R., LVMPD SAR Volunteer, snow shoed in to Angel Falls in Kyle Canyon to climb the Hosemonster (WI5). Snowfall had been heavy that winter and Angel Falls had frozen wide and thick on its 80-foot lower section. The upper 200-foot section was wide and thick at the base but tapered to three feet at it’s top. A steep snow slope met the base of the route with a foot wide moat separating the snow from the ice.

Peterson led the first section of ice to the large alcove below the upper section. He called down that the upper tier of ice looked solid and climbable, but that the snow in the alcove was loose and unconsolidated. They decided to take turns top-roping the lower section. Peterson established an anchor with several equalized screws and pound-ins and lowered to the base.

His partner climbed the lower pitch, removing the screws Peterson had placed on lead. At the anchor, he heard a loud crack and rumbling and called “Avalanche!” He pulled close to the ice and felt it wash over him. When it stopped, he looked down and saw that Peterson was partially buried by the ice and not moving. Looking up, he saw that the top 100 feet of the upper tier of the Hosemonster had broken free. Peterson had kept him on belay and the rope was now taut through the anchor to his harness. He made a “z- rig” using prusiks and a cordalette to get enough slack in the rope to untie. Before he could free himself, he again heard a loud crack and rumble as the bottom half of the upper section broke free and washed over him. Peterson was now completely buried. J. R. was able to untie and secure the rope to the anchor and descend using prusiks and the cordalette about an hour after the initial ice fall.

Peterson never moved following the initial ice fall and was found apneic and pulseless. His partner snow-shoed out and radioed for help on reaching the truck. Peterson’s body was recovered by LVMPD Officers and Volunteers the next morning.

Analysis

The top of the upper section of the Hosemonster is often poorly bonded to the rock. It is likely that the upper section broke free of its own weight. Wearing a helmet is vital. Peterson died instandy under the tons of ice that fell from above. His helmet offered no protection. His partner was partially sheltered and his helmet proved lifesaving. Peterson had built a solid multi-point equalized anchor that held despite taking impact from the falling ice. He also kept his partner on belay even in death. Self rescue skills, prusiks, and a cordalette for such an event, and being able to safely escape the anchor and descend to the snow allowed his partner to survive a catastrophic ice fall and walk out with minor contusions.

Russ Paterson was an exceptional man with a passion for climbing. He had recently begun climbing ice and that day had affirmed his passion for it. Russ is deeply missed by his team members and fellow officers, and we will never fill the void left by his passing. (Source: James Roberts, Volunteer, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SAR)