Dangerous avalanche conditions in Hatcher Pass after Wednesday's slide

Two trucks visibly trapped in the distance following Monday's avalanches. Photo courtesy...
Two trucks visibly trapped in the distance following Monday's avalanches. Photo courtesy Department of Transportation. (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 25, 2017 at 12:34 PM AKST
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Avalanche conditions are "considerable" this weekend in Hatcher Pass after sustained winds have overloaded the snow pack, that's according to the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center.

The forecast for the area comes after the center released more detailed information about the slide Wednesday afternoon that claimed the life of 60-year-old


"Randy was a very experienced backcountry skier who will be sorely missed. We send our condolences to family, friends and the community. Words cannot express this loss," writes staff from the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center.

The preliminary report released by the center describes that the avalanche danger rating at the time was "considerable at upper elevations."

All three skiers in the touring party were said to be carrying beacons, shovels and probes in case of emergency. The skiers climbed the president's ridge on the southeast side of Marmot Mountain above the Archangel Road.

"At approximately 3600’ the touring party decided to descend. One person entered the slope triggering an avalanche," said the preliminary report.

The avalanche was estimated at 150’ wide and 800’ long. "The victim was caught and carried through a vertical, rocky gully. The victim was buried 4 feet deep in a narrow terrain trap at the base of the run."

Using the locator beacons, the other two members of the party "acquired a signal near the base of the debris pile." The party dug out Bergt and performed CPR unsuccessfully.

By Wednesday evening, Dan Gunderson with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, said they were unable to recover Bergt's remains after fears of triggering another avalanche.

Bergt's brother, members of his skiing party and friends returned to the site of the accident Thanksgiving and were able to recover his remains.

Jed Workman, the Director of the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center, spoke to Channel 2 about the risk of avalanches this weekend saying there was an "elevated hazard."

"We would encourage all people to travel in groups, bring all the rescue gear essential to avalanche safety, to use safe travel protocol, spreading out and moving from safe zones one at a time. And being prepared to conduct a rescue if necessary," said Workman.

There were dangerous avalanche conditions above 2500'. Workman recommends careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision making.

Workman released a video with the weekly forecast in the area of the accident site on Marmot Mt. The video shows how a hard thick layer of snow is sitting over "weak facets."