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Avalanche, No Belay Anchor

During the mid-morning of January 17, while two climbers were top roping The Shroud ice climb (WI3-4), an avalanche from above the climb flowed through the area. The climber on the ice at the time was generally protected just below the top of the ice flow and the avalanche ran over him. The belayer was not anchored and was swept from his belay stance. The belayer was unable to hold the break on the belay device and slid approximately 30 feet down the rope where a knot stopped him from being carried away by the avalanche and releasing the climber above. The snow flowed over the climber and pummeled the belayer for approximately ten seconds and then continued past the climbers.

Neither party was injured or buried, as the two climbers held each other’s weight at the end of the rope through the secure top-rope anchor. The slide reached the bike/ski/snowshoe path at the base of the slope approximately 400 to 500 feet below. (Source: Colorado Avalanche Information Center: avalanche.state.co.us)

Analysis

A closed belay system and a secure top rope anchor may have made a difference in the outcome of this incident. Climbers are encouraged to check avalanche reports before attempting any climb in avalanche terrain. (Source: Aram Attarian)