Report details deadly slide
January 7, 2009
Avalanche danger was considerable in the Uinta Mountains this week as officials continued investigating a Dec. 29 avalanche that killed a 15-year-old Wyoming boy in the Uinta Mountains.
"Details are still being sifted through, but what we know is this, a father and his three sons left the Bear River Service trailhead and rode their snowmobiles towards the Moffit Basin and ultimately landed near Yamaha Hill," a report from Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Craig Gordon states.
The victim, Hayden Ellingford, was below other snowmobilers on the slope when someone in his group triggered an avalanche that was 600 feet wide and buried the boy, the report states.
"[Ellingford] waited at the bottom of the slope as one of the riders from the group took a bite low on the slope above him, triggering a large avalanche," Gordon states in his report. "[Ellingford] was not wearing a beacon nor did any members of his party have rescue equipment."
The slide occurred where there was thin snow pack on a slope that is 36 degrees, Gordon said.
The avalanche was about four feet deep and slid nearly 500 feet downhill, he said, adding that Yamaha Hill is a northeast facing slope with little vegetation.
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"The terrain is typical of many slopes in the western Uintas," Gordon states in his report. "Broad, flat windward ridges allow winds to transport a tremendous amount of snow even while it’s relatively calm in neighboring mountain ranges."
Ellingford was snowmobiling about eight miles west of Bear River Service when the slide triggered in the Windy Ridge/Moffit Basin area of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest at about 4 p.m., the authorities said.
The boy was buried for about 90 minutes near Humpty Peak before his body was retrieved in the remote area of the forest at about 5:54 p.m.
The avalanche occurred about 47 miles east of Kamas.
"It’s been a fairly active time since Christmas," Gordon said about slide danger in the Uintas in a telephone interview Monday.
There have been eight avalanche fatalities in the Uinta Mountains since 2001 that involved seven snowmobilers and one skier, according to Gordon.
"Because of its long, arduous approaches, snowmobilers are the predominate user group in the western Uinta Mountains," Gordon said.
Meanwhile, cold temperatures, shallow snow depths and strong winds can create weak, dangerous snow packs in the Uintas, according to Gordon.
The Utah Avalanche Center forecasts slide advisories daily for the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains at (888) 999-4019 or http://www.utahavalanchecenter.org.
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