Uintas avalanche kills Wyoming man | ParkRecord.com

Uintas avalanche kills Wyoming man

by Patrick Parkinson, of The Record staff

An avalanche killed an experienced snowmobiler Friday afternoon east of Kamas. The victim was identified as 54-year-old Dennis K. Barnes of Evanston, Wyo.

Officials say the slide occurred in the Humpy Creek drainage in the Uinta Mountains at about 2:05 p.m.

"His buddy tried to dig him out," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.

Barnes was not wearing an avalanche beacon, Edmunds said.

"By the time they got to him he was deceased," Edmunds said.

Barnes was snowmobiling with another man when he was covered by nearly two feet of snow, said Summit County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ron Bridge.

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The slide occurred in Utah near the Wyoming state line. Barnes was pronounced dead at the scene at about 3:41 p.m., Bridge said.

Avalanche danger was considerable in the western Uinta Mountains on Friday, said Craig Gordon, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. "Considerable danger means for that day human-triggered avalanches were likely," Gordon said.

The slide that killed Barnes was about 600 feet wide and three to five feet deep, according to Gordon.

The avalanche was triggered low on the slope, he explained. "We had the perfect elements coming together: fresh snow and beautiful skies," Gordon said. "These two very experienced gentlemen had no intention of riding on steep slopes that day, so they left their avalanche rescue gear in the truck. That could quite possibly have been a fatal mistake. I would think that having the gear would have helped locate [Barnes] sooner."

According to Gordon, both snowmobilers are well known in their community.

Barnes might have been buried for more than 30 minutes, he said.

"For this gentleman’s partner, these certainly were heroic efforts to save his friend’s life," Gordon said.

Barnes was found after the tip of his snowmobile was spotted sticking out of the snow.

"Barnes found a weakness in the snow pack and then he kicked the legs out from underneath it," Gordon said. "Whenever you have very strong snow on weak snow or weakening snow that is a big red flag We have a lot of very strong dense snow on top of some weakening snow so that is not a good combination."

Avalanche danger in the Uinta Mountains on Monday was reported to be considerable.

"Given the conditions, no matter what you always go out with your safety gear with you," Gordon said. "I don’t leave my house without my beacon and shovel and probe."