Full Circle with the Phantom Avalanche

Last year a good friend of mine, Roger Strong, was captured in an avalanche that he triggered in Washington State. He and another party member sustained serious injuries and luckily escaped with their lives.

Roger is a Pacific Northwest icon and friend with many. Within hours the local websites were buzzing with reports and comments about the accident. And in the following days, the victims of the avalanche started speaking out about the event. During that time i filtered out all of the fluff and captured the facts, and more telling, their personal reflections and compiled them into a storyline for Roj.

One year to the day, Roj returned to the Phantom slide; coming full circle with the event that could have easily taken his life and the life of his partners that day. This video shows the human side of the story while the lengthy book below provides an in-depth outline. I could point out the take home points from this event, but both the video and text are telling enough. Besides, i’d rather allow them the honor of continuing their desire to educate through this horrific experience by posting their words; not mine.

Strong from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.

Marcus – “It wouldn’t be responsible to hide our mistakes if others can learn from them.”

The Climb
I’ve said for years that if I ever had to use my avalanche transceiver, I’ve screwed up big time.  But here I am, having just hacked a wad of snow the size of a tangerine out of my throat, switching to receive and hoping to hear a sound.  I’ve screwed up big time.

Roger, Doug, Dan, Drew and I met at the Mercer Island Park & Ride a little after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, aiming to get in a dawn patrol at Snoqualmie Pass and be back in town by 10:30.  We piled into Doug & Dan’s cars and headed up to Alpental, excited for fresh snow and new company.  Roger and I had already discussed the telemetry, expecting upward of two feet of snow on the upper slopes and knowing that any notions we’d had of skiing the Slot or the Snot were not going to happen.  The plan was to head up and see what we found – beyond that we didn’t discuss it much.

We arrived at the maintenance lot and hit the trail by 6:15.  Trail breaking was arduous, Roger plowing ahead through 12-18” of light dry snow, with pockets up to waist deep.  We knew this wasn’t going to be a one-hour blast to the top and switched trailbreakers from time to time as we climbed through the trees to the left of the Phantom.  We could feel the layers in the top few feet of the snowpack, with the obvious mushy rain soaked snow about a pole length down.

Progress through the trees eased as we got farther up, the SW slopes of Snoqualmie rolling back below the steeper upper pitches above the entrance to the Snot couloir.  The snow remained excellent and, while we could get the new snow to break in soft slabs on the steeper kick turns, we continued up, spreading out as we began to encounter steeper sections.  Roger was breaking trail again, doing a good job of picking a line with minimal exposure to the Snot entrance.

It was now 9:00, the first 2600 feet having taken almost three hours.  We had a brief discussion about timing, as Doug and I both had to be back in town before the others.  We talked about continuing up another couple hundred feet to the Slot entrance, just to look, then returning back down.  I felt I had enough time to make it work, so we pressed on.

We traversed back to the right, climbing away from the ridge.  The trail breaking was easier near the ridge, maybe 6-12”, and the wind had picked up.  I put on my thicker gloves and gave Roger some space.  He pointed out a couple of features to avoid on the trip down – places he’d seen slide activity in his past trips.

As we wrapped a little farther away from the ridge, we came into deeper pockets of snow, particularly in the many small gully/concavity features on the upper slopes.  The snow seemed a bit more reactive on the kick turns, the soft slabs a little more cohesive.  No whumphing or shooting cracks, but the exposed upper slopes were definitely showing some new signs.

Roger cut out across the bottom of a steeper section, perhaps 60 feet wide.  I waited in a pocket of trees for him to clear it then, when he put in a kick turn below a few thick trees, I zipped over to him quickly, so that I could watch him climb back across in the other direction.  I checked behind me and saw that Dan had followed me across the slope and was with me at the turn.  Too late now, I thought, and then I looked back to Roger and the crack rips out above him and he is falling and I am falling and we have screwed up big time.

The Slide
The crack is silent and none of us make a sound as the slab’s blocks dissolve into powder.  I slide on the surface, still in the light, trying to pound the head of my whippet into the bed surface.  I’m already moving too fast.

I’ve forgotten my avalung!

Grab it, shove it into my mouth.  And then I’m under, tumbling in the stiff liquid foam, like rolling around in a mixing bowl of well-whipped meringue.

Anastasia is going to be so pissed at me if I die here.

What else?  Fight!  Swim for the surface, make an air pocket, stick your hand up!  It’s all coming back, but when will this slide end?

SMACK!  I’ve hit my head on something.  I’m still conscious, no pain – I’m okay.  Fight more, make an air pocket, stick your hand up!  I’ve lost my avalung.  There’s snow in my mouth.  I can’t breathe I can’t breathe I can’t breathe.

Stick your hand up!

And I’ve stopped.  I can’t see but it’s light.  I sit up, covered only in a thin coating of fine powder.  I’m up against a big tree and I can’t breathe.  Stand up, have to cough!  Harder!  GASP!  Huge volumes, lungfuls, barrelfuls of air, a wad of snow like a tangerine, discolored from being in my throat, lying on the ground.

I can finally look around.  I see Roger.  He’s uphill about 250 feet, on the surface.  I take out my beacon and switch to receive – nothing.  Not a peep.  I’m too far even from Roger and I’ve yet to grasp how far down I’ve come from the crown.  Dan must be above me somewhere.

I try to shout to Roger, but my voice is hoarse from the snow.  He sees me.

“Do you have Dan?”  He can’t hear me.  I try to ask him to switch his beacon, but then I see Lou way up above and he’s yelling to Roger too, so I wait.  Drew has Dan.  Thank god, okay.  Roger starts scooting down to me on his butt, unable to stand – I start climbing up to meet him.  Crap, I can barely lift my right leg!  I can stand no problem, but man is it tender.  I must have banged it on a tree and not felt it – okay, we’ll have the hands help too.  My head feels all right.  No loss of consciousness, no pain, no vision trouble.

I find one of my poles and it’s then that I realize that everything else is gone.  Both skis and my whippet have checked out – thank god the skis came off my feet.

Roger and I finally come together.  He looks good.  Good airway, no obvious trauma.  I try to switch into EMT mode as my brain is firing 1000 miles an hour.  His knees hurt – okay, we expose them and they look okay.  Tender and some bruising already, but no obvious deformity and no open injuries.  No other complaints.

Drew’s here too and he helps make Roger comfortable.  He tells me that Dan’s probably got a broken leg.  I ask him about first aid background and tell them both I’m an EMT and ski patroller, just so we all know where everyone is.  Drew offers me his skis if I think I can make it up to Dan.  I click in (Dynafit fittings on the NTN boots, thankfully) and make my way up.  Drew yells up that he’s calling 911 – good, get them moving.  It’ll take a while and we’ll need at least two litters, assuming I can walk out, which I’m quite determined to do.

Both my legs are cramping and my right leg is on fire.  Skinning on these fat, long skis on the avalanche’s bed surface is a challenge.  I finally see Dan and yell up to get his condition.  He’s pretty sure he’s broken his right femur and thinks he may have broken the tibia too.  Crap.  I try to motor, but I have only one speed.

Dan is a tough guy.  My initial exam reveals no real pain in the lower leg and, though he complains of pain in the thigh I have a hard time believing he’s broken his femur.  This is the injury that’s supposed to be the closest a man can come to the pain of childbirth – he’s barely grimacing.  But sure enough, tightly bound muscles and an obvious deformity up high prove him right.  I call the Operations Leader for the Ski Patrol Rescue Team and give him the details.  He’s just received the word from King County SAR and is working on spinning up the mission.

Dan is managing his pain well, so Doug and I try to make him a bit more comfortable and get him ready for the long wait.  Extra jackets, balaclava, space blankets, garbage bag, Ibuprofen – he gets most of what we have, which isn’t much.  I empty my pack, trying to figure out what we need to make a traction splint.  A stout ski pole.  Leg loops cut off of the climbing harness he had with him.  A 12” sewn runner.  Three Voile straps.  The aluminum harness buckle.  That will do.

With the traction applied, we button up Dan and he seems fairly comfortable.  I take some pictures and climb up toward the crown to see the starting zone.  Dan’s tree is about 250 feet down slope from the crown.  Roger is another 250 feet further still, and I was a couple hundred feet below him.  I realize that we’d all been filtered out by the trees and that I had no idea how far down the slide continued.

I check in on Dan as Doug returns from visiting Roger and viewing the slide path.  He’s found one of my skis and tells me that the slide ran another 800-1000 feet below where I stopped, over steeper slopes and a 50’ cliff band, before hitting the lower angle fan and coming to a stop more than 1000 vertical feet from the crown.  He also reports that Roger is in a lot of pain, so I bundle up what little I have left and head down to give him a more thorough assessment.  Dan’s break seems stable and he’s in excellent spirits, with Doug to keep him company.

When I get down to Roger I offer him my last few Ibuprofen.  I have some Imodium if things get ugly, but he turns it down.  It’s clear to me at this point that we’ve got an incredibly solid group of people.  Roger and Dan are absolute troopers and fortunate to have stable, non-life-threatening injuries.  Drew and Doug are unflappable, reflexively getting the rescue started and immediately caring for the most critical concern – imminent hypothermia.  We are going to come out of this okay, despite our mistakes.

We hunker down and wait for Search and Rescue to arrive.

The Rescue
The first team on scene was actually a private party, close friends of Roger’s, who’d been scrambled by Dave b after a text message from Roger alerted him of the situation.  They dropped what they were doing and sprinted uphill just ahead of the formal SAR response.  They must have connected with the SAR coordinators at the trailhead, because they brought up the first Cascade litter and some extra supplies.

The next teams were only a few minutes behind them with the additional gear necessary to begin the extraction.  Multiple EMTs in the first couple of teams and, to my delight, a paramedic that I work with in Snohomish County.

Everyone should have the privilege of seeing smiling, familiar faces arrive on scene when you’re hip-deep in trouble of your own making.  It was an enormous relief and, for me, the moment I really began to spin-down and start to relax.  SMR, SPART, EMRU, ESAR and all the other units did a great job getting us packaged up and moving out.  The whole thing felt more like a happy reunion than an unfortunate accident — which, I guess, it kind of was.

Once we got moving I fully transitioned over to “subject” — I briefly offered to help, but there were plenty of people and I didn’t want to become a liability, so I hooked up with a friend from SPART and just tried to keep plodding downhill on my loaner snowshoes.  Everyone was in good spirits and Roger was taking advantage of the deep powder to collect his last face shots of the season from the comfort of his litter.  Drew skied out with Dan’s skis, my single ski and managed to scrape up one of Roger’s as well — he looked like some kind of bizarre antenna array.

I arrived at the trailhead at 5:45.  Roger got out about an hour later and Dan just after sunset.  The debrief in the command vehicle was fairly straightforward, more so because I’d been on the phone with several of them a couple of times over the course of the day.  I almost lost it when Anastasia showed up at the trailhead — she and Andy had tried to deploy into the field, but had gotten caught in the four hour pass closure and arrived at six instead of one thirty.  I wasn’t sure whether she was going to punch me or hug me — thankfully the hug won out.

I know I speak for all our crew when I give enormous thanks to the efforts of everyone who came out to help, as well as those at the other end of the pager who may not have made it out this time, but routinely put forth such effort to help our fellow hikers, climbers and skiers when they’re unable to get themselves back to the trailhead.  It was an honor to be on that side of the experience and to see the skills and empathy of everyone involved.

The Mistakes
As much as I can, I’ll describe the things that we did wrong (or I did wrong) that got us into this situation.  Much of this I’ve chatted about with others in the group (at particular length with Roger) and I think there’s a fair bit of agreement among us, but I want to make it clear that I’m really only speaking for myself.  Dan’s already chimed in with his thoughts, which largely echo my own.  I expect some of the others will do the same.

Communication
Far and away the biggest problem was heading out on a High hazard day with an unfamiliar group.  I spend probably 95% of my time skiing with the same half a dozen people.  Having skied so much, for so long, with such a small group, I take for granted how natural and predictable our communication has become.  Chats about objectives, expectations, stopping points, red-flags… all that stuff is just par for the course and typically happens without any prompting.

This is, of course, no reflection on our group — a great bunch of guys.  There wasn’t any “rah rah let’s go CHARGE!” vibe at all, it’s just that we set no baseline for what the plan was and didn’t have a quick group chat at any point about the day.  No “let’s discuss again when we get out of the trees” or anything like that — had we established those open lines of communication and set some expectations, I think we would have been more diligent in our decision making and likely turned around to harvest the goods at the Snot entrance, if not below it in the trees.

Establishing that communication is tough.  To that end, for me, I think I’m going to have to put much more thought into whether I go out with an unfamiliar crew in conditions that require frequent, open discussion among all members.  I think we could have quickly and easily set that up with our group, but we failed to.

In a way, everything else just sort of follows off of that.  I don’t feel that there were signs that I was missing, but for whatever reason I had parked my decision-making brain in a much less active place than it typically would be.  Roger and I were chatting at the switchbacks about what we were seeing, talking about the snowpack, but none of that chatting every bumped up to a quick group huddle to talk things over.

New Behavior, Missing Data
Another new element, for me, was the time pressure.  I don’t dawn patrol very often and I knew that I had to be back in town by 11.  We were trying to crank our way through the trail breaking to get a nice run and it was clear that it was going to take a while.  I was making all my usual observations, taking in the snowpack, pole tests, hand pits, switchback cutting, noting the wind, etc etc etc.  This is obviously a great way to get a lot of small points of data as you climb.

The other data which I almost always collect is a few quick pits.  Quick compression and shear tests, then on we go.  But I didn’t, and neither did Roger — he told me yesterday that he typically digs for the same reasons, especially when he’s been away from the region for a bit.

Now, I won’t pretend that we would’ve gotten the shear or compression results that Andy posted above (STE, CT10, both Q1), though I will say that any of those results would have kept me down in the trees, no question.  I think the results themselves aren’t as important to my point, which is that I was trying to make my usual risk assessment decisions with only, say, 80% of the info I usually have.

Another way to look at it is this:  I was trying to make a good choice using a risk assessment model I was not as familiar with — not as good at.  For the sake of expedience, mostly.  The silly part here is that the trail breaking was so deep that I could have easily stepped out, dug a quick pit, stepped back in and been back with the group in a few minutes…  but I was already sucking wind trying to keep up.  It just didn’t occur to me to stop.

The last, and probably most important, side effect of digging a pit?  I’m betting everyone would have gathered up in a safe spot, waited to see what was found, and we would have had a quick pow-wow to discuss the results.

Would they have swayed the decision to continue?  It’s impossible to say.  But the lines of communication would have been open and I think that would have made a big difference.  At the very least, it would have given all of us a feel for how the others balanced their risk and choices, which is the most important piece of info we were lacking.

DREW –
Analysis of what led up to the slide can go on and on. Once the slab broke out and three friends disappeared down slope with it, that all becomes instantly irrelevant. Despite mistakes, we also did a great deal right. Despite what we did right, we also were blessed with great luck and fortune.

Many people involved in accidents in the backcountry are not fortunate enough to look over immediately after the accident and see an EMT in their S&R uniform setting a femur break in a traction splint and administering medical aid to both victims. Thanks Markus! And Doug too for being calm and collected throughout – from when the slide broke to the evac to the hospital on to today. And Roj and Don for their courage, not losing their cool once while sitting through convulsions of shock in the pounding snow that fell all afternoon.

Thanks also to the greater NW backcountry community. The enthusiasm, concern, and knowledge out there is incredible. I suggest you all go skiing to reward yourselves for being great people.

DAN-
My first goal is mostly to add to the usefulness of our experience in reducing the likelihood or severity of future avalanche incidents.  I acknowledge and appreciate those who have stated that they don’t “expect” a report from us, but at the same time I know how much I enjoy reading the AAC’s Accidents in N. American Mountaineering each year, hoping I can glean some tidbit from someone else’s experience that might save lives for me or my friends in the future.  My secondary goal is to get my own memories down before they fade from my head.

My point of view comes as someone who is probably less experienced with explicit backcountry skiing than any of the other members of the team, but nonetheless my experience is pretty deep.  I have lift-skied at Crystal all my life, and my experiences with avalanches began when I was 10 or so, being swept away in a slide in the Crystal slack country, saving myself from a likely very early grave by grabbing an opportune tree as I went by it and letting the snow slide under me.  I generally have gotten about 5 to 10 true backcountry days a season for the past 15 years or so.  In recent years, the Slot Couloir has been my most common objective, and I had done it most recently in late February, so I was quite familiar with the terrain.

Roger, on the other hand, a friend of mine for many years, has probably been up that side of Snoqualmie Mt. over 100 times – I’m guessing not many people know it better than he does. I didn’t know Marcus, Drew, or Doug well before our trip, but based on our conversations on the drive & approach it seems all of them make backcountry skiing their primary recreational activity in the winter.  I felt I had the least experience, and I had at least a slight feeling of deferring to my teammates’ expertise and judgment on this trip.

Although we didn’t discuss it much specifically, I’m sure we all knew the NWAC report for the day. We did discuss the obvious slow trail breaking due to deep snow, and we swapped leads rather than letting Roger punch it the whole way like he usually does.  The increasing risk of avalanche danger was certainly on my mind, but in the trees lower down the layers did seem fairly well bonded in most places; even on the steep slopes around the cliff bands our switchbacks did not cause significant sluffs. As we got higher up into the sparser trees, we started spreading ourselves out and paying close attention to not skiing underneath each other.  There were signs that the snowpack was becoming more unstable up higher, but there were still no whumpfing or shooting cracks.  Our switchbacks did not slip out from under us.

We did not dig a pit.  We limited our assessment to examining layers exposed by steep switch backing in a few spots and just the general feel of the snow & terrain. I’m not aware that this was a conscious decision to not do a more rigorous assessment.  Roger noted aloud at one point that our main concern would be the new snow that had fallen since the weekend. There was a slightly crusty layer about 12”-18” down representing the surface from the weekend.  I did notice (I think we all did) that the wind was blowing pretty hard up at the ridge as soon as it came into view, and certainly the possibility of wind loading there entered my mind at least for a moment.

We converged at the entrance to the snot couloir to check it out. By this time I think we were all on the same page that skiing anything on the N side of the mountain would be a bad idea, from both a time and a danger perspective.  Nonetheless, we continued up to take a look at the slot in this order: Roger, Marcus, Dan, Drew, Doug.  We weren’t talking a lot at this point, but Roger pointed out areas to avoid on our descent because of their propensity to slide, as Marcus noted. Roger pushed a track up and climber’s right, around a convex minor ridge where there was a small group of trees.

This is where we came upon the feature that eventually slid, a slightly horizontally concave and more open slope about 60 ft. wide. There is a minor rock buttress that comes down from the summit ridge on the far side of the open slope; all skin tracks up to the entrance of the slot must stay to climbers left of this buttress.  There are a few trees around the base of the rock buttress; I believe that’s what Marcus referred to as the “few thick trees”.

He continued past the trees (Marcus’s “pocket of trees”) into the open slope. I watched Marcus wait at the small group of trees before the slope as I approached him.  When Roger reached the other side of the slope, near the base of the rock buttress, he made a switchback. Marcus took this opportunity to punch across the slope and joined Roger at the switchback as I took my turn waiting at the trees. I remember being aware that this was probably the most dangerous terrain we’d been on thus far, but I don’t remember being really worried.  When Marcus got to the switchback, Roger began pushing the next leg climber’s left, and I had a decision to make… wait for him to continue and eventually be breaking trail directly above me (above the trees), or punch it myself and get to the switchback before Roger got too far from it.  I deliberately chose the latter option, thinking that the switchback was close enough to the rock and trees to be safe.  And I made it.  The 3 of us were bunched up pretty close to the switchback, me on the downhill side, Marcus right above me on the uphill side, and Roger breaking trail about 20 feet up and left of us.  At that point, apparently Roger was on some wind-loaded snow that was much less stable, and it seems his weight caused a fracture about 5 -15 feet above him.  I did not see the fracture myself, just heard about it later from Marcus and Roger.  My first indication of a problem was the collapse of the upper part of the skin track at the switchback, that triangle wedge of snow that Marcus was on top of, onto the lower part, right where I was.  I dove up toward Marcus, toward what I thought was the top edge of the avalanche in hopes it would fall out below me (as I have successfully done on a couple other occasions), but the real fracture line was up a little higher, out of reach.

As this is the end of the portion of our day where we could have prevented being involved in an avalanche, I’ll pause here for a little reflection on our mistakes:

1.   There will be some people who would say we had already made our worst decision by skinning up that side of Snoqualmie Mt. that morning at all.  Obviously if we’d bailed that early, it wouldn’t have happened.  I’m not in that camp though. I feel strongly that the avalanche conditions on most of that side of the mountain at that time were not severe enough for me to feel like I made the wrong decision to continue. Even after my experience, I would make that same choice again in identical conditions.
2.   Once we made the decision that we weren’t going to ski the N side of the mountain, we should have focused only on the quality and safety of our run back down to the parking lot.  There was no real reason to continue up to the slot entrance, just our curiosity of how it was looking.
3.   I think we were aware that the danger was increasing, but we didn’t alter our behavior significantly. We continued breaking trail along the normal path, relying mainly on our intentional spacing and the route finding decisions of the leader.  That is not intended to put negative judgment on Roger for his route finding decisions, but rather to claim responsibility for them myself because of my mental state. Speaking for myself, I was not opening my mind and being mentally proactive about assessing the whole situation. My self-image of being slightly less experienced than the others was a factor here.  If I had been leading others who were less experienced than me, I would have been thinking much more actively.
4.   We should have been more rigorous about our snowpack assessment as it changed higher up.  Digging a pit would have alerted us more to the wind loading, and it also would have given us time to stop, think and discuss our decisions as a group.
5.   Personally, I made an incorrect assumption that the far side of the slope by the trees & rock was safe from a fracture line from above.  I suspect Marcus made the same assumption.  If Marcus and I had not made this misinterpretation, we would have waited at the small group of trees until Roger was either completely back in safe territory, or, more likely, watched him succumb alone to the slide.  Still not great for Roger, but definitely a better outcome for the team as a whole.

Back to the story. It seemed I was separated from Marcus fairly quickly; I knew I was going for a ride, but wasn’t aware that Roger or Marcus had been caught yet.  I got my avalung in my mouth and stayed mostly near the surface for quite a while. Then it sped up and I got turned under, but felt I still had enough control to influence my position within the slide a little. I was actually thinking I was getting the hang of riding it out, just wondering how long I’d have to maintain, knowing the important thing would be my position when things came to a halt.  But then, with a surprisingly violent blow, I came to a halt even though the avalanche didn’t. I remember a quick chain of thoughts that crossed my mind in the next few seconds.  First, OW! Second, annoyance at the sudden disruption of my perceived avalanche flow management.  Third, profound relief that my ride in the avalanche was actually over and even though I knew I was at the very least badly bruised, everything would be fine for me.  I had hit the tree with my right quadriceps only.  As I was soon to discover, I had instantly broken my femur, but then the continuing avalanche pinned my leg against the very large tree, which supported it and kept it from moving around more. My upper body was hanging around the left side of the tree, which created a large air hole in the lee of the tree.  All I had to do was hang out and wait for everything to stop.  When it did, I was mostly exposed. Drew came by first, with his beacon in search mode, and he was saying to turn off other beacons, and I assumed he meant me, so it wouldn’t interfere with his searching.  I said “I can do that…” and started struggling to get to my beacon, but it was buried under several layers of clothing and I gave up trying to do that pretty quickly.  I did yell that I very well could have broken my leg, but at that time I wasn’t sure; it was only based on how hard I had hit.  Drew kept going by to look for Marcus and Roger.

Soon, I got my left leg around underneath me to support my weight.  It was then that I realized my still-pinned right leg was not rotating the way it should when I twisted my hip around, and the muscles felt weird.  Not much pain, but then I knew for sure it was broken, and I better not move around much because there were probably sharp pieces of bone sticking around in there ready to tear things apart. Doug came by shortly thereafter, and I told him I needed my leg dug out and I asked if everyone was accounted for. Drew yelled up that he had seen that Roger and Marcus were on the surface.  Doug then proceeded to dig my leg out, and carefully set me down next to the tree.  I could go into more detail about the following events, but I think Marcus covered most of that well enough.

When I go into the mountains, I always go with the expectation that I and my team are completely responsible for ourselves.  Many places I have gone, that is totally true – if something had gone wrong, we never would have been rescued.  On that note, I’m truly grateful for the expertise of our own team.  Marcus in particular was invaluable, with his ability to set up my traction splint and many other things.  Drew and Doug used their experience to our advantage also – Doug hung out with me the longest, and his amazing attitude and quick thinking kept me going.  I can think of very little we could have done better as a team after the slide occurred.

Here is where I express my eternal gratitude to the parties involved in our rescue.  I am very aware that when we subjected ourselves to our avalanche, we were risking not only our lives, but the lives of our rescuers.  Nonetheless, the response was without hesitation and massive.  Seattle and Everett Mt. Rescue, King County, Bellevue Fire Dept., and others meshed their services seamlessly from my perspective.   It’s an incredible network we have here in the PNW.  Thanks guys so so very much!  I would love to name everyone I met by name, but there were so many and I’d be afraid of missing someone important I’m not great with names anyway!

However, when we can have an accident like this one and be rescued as quickly and professionally as we were, it makes it more difficult to maintain the correct attitude.  I would like to urge everyone to strive to keep it clear in your minds whenever you go out that you are on your own, it’s your responsibility to make smart decisions, and only when everything breaks down, you can hope (not expect) that you can be lucky enough to get a rescue like ours.

Things are going well for me; got my titanium rod installed, and now I’m home sitting on my couch – all indications are that I’ll have a speedy recovery, for which I’m very thankful.  Roger will have a rougher go at it; he’ll probably be in a wheelchair for a couple months at least.  We’re all here for you, Roger!  I’m sure next year you’ll be breaking trail for us up to the slot again!

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