East face Mt. Morrison a few hundred feet below summit
Friday, April 21, 2017 - 2:00pm
"I was hit at the top of the red line and ended up at the bottom. I was able to dig myself out at bottom, and the two skiers I summited with helped me get back to convict lake. I would guess the wall of snow was about chest height when it hit me. No major injuries, I walked out. Could have been prevented if I had followed a ridge down (the way we came up) instead of taking the easier terrain below the ridge. Or better yet, waiting a couple of days for the snow to stabilize after the recent warming."
Further details added by forecaster after speaking with Brian:
-Weather: Today (Friday) was the 1st very warm day after 3-12" of new snow fall on Tuesday, with continued winds Wednesday and Thursday resulting in significant snow transport. HIghs in the mid 40s above 10,000'. Clear skies, calm winds with slight breeze at ridgetop.
-Brian was travelling alone by foot with crampons and ice ax. He summited Little Morrison around 10am, and continued on towards Morrison proper, where he ran into 2 skiers near the top. They summited about 1pm, and Brian began decending by foot about 2pm just ahead of the skiers, who were going to take a further skier's right descent route. After about 10 minutes of descent, about 300' below the summit, Brian heard the wet avalanche coming down just above him which was atleast 100' wide and over waist high. He had no way to escape it, tried to anchor down, but was swept away immediately. He quickly was tumbling submerged in the wet debris as it picked up significant speed, taking him over several rock bands, until it began slowing at the base of the slope where he was able to fight for the surface as it continued to creep downslope. It seems that the slide was triggered by one of the two skiers above him as they were traversing out to descend a different area of the mountain. The two skiers joined him at the base as quickly as they could, and helped him walk out with a hurt knee and banged up body.
-Discussion: Brian learned alot today about the danger of wet avalanches, the importance of timing and the effects of initial rapid warming, especially after recent snowfall. 2pm is pretty late to be descending an easterly facing slope given the snow and weather conditions that day. This incident also emphasizes the dangers that exist when multiple parties are navigating the same slope during heightened avalanche conditions, and the importance of being aware of who is above and below.