American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington—Cascades, Snoqualmie Pass

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1954

Washington—Cascades, Snoqualmie Pass: Keith Jacobson (17), Larry Schinke (17), and Eddie Olmquist (17) without registering or checking on weather conditions started on an overnight ski-mountaineering trip from Snoqualmie Pass Summit to Snow Lake on 7 February. They had just passed Source Lake, and at about 1 p.m. Jacobson and Schinke were switching back up a steep hill and were about 100-150 ft. away from Olmquist. Olmquist heard a low rumble and saw an avalanche starting. All three tried to ski out of the path of the avalanche. Olmquist was successful but the other two were buried. Olmquist made a brief attempt to locate his companions but realized he needed help. He marked the spot with his pack and then started back with one broken ski. He contacted the Washington Alpine Club at Snoqualmie Pass summit. A rescue party was organized and Olmquist led them to the site of the accident. Schinke was found after being covered by snow for 9 hours. Jacobsen had been suffocated and was dead when uncovered.

Source: Newspaper accounts. M. M. Atwater Avalanche Forester U. S. F. S. Appalachia 19: 588, December, 1953.

Analysis: Dangerous avalanche conditions existed: rain on 18 inches of new snow and along their path there were fresh avalanche tracks. At the scene of the accident they did not choose a protected route through timber but traversed an open slope overhung by cliffs. Secondly, when buried by an avalanche every effort should be made to dig oneself out if possible, since the chance of restarting an avalanche that has run its course is extremely slight, whereas there is a good chance of being buried deeper by a second avalanche in the same area. Whenever one is caught in an avalanche, he should “swim”—that is, use swimming motions to remain as near the surface as possible-—and to extricate himself, if possible, as soon as he can. The swimming motion, in addition, may create an air space which could prevent suffocation.

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