Chief Joseph Mountain, which overlooks the town of Joseph, Oregon. Wallowa Avalanche Center Director Kip Rand died skiing near there yesterday. Google Earth image.
According to the Joseph, Oregon-based Wallowa Avalanche Center, the Center's Director, Kip Rand, died tragically in an avalanche yesterday afternoon near Chief Joseph Mountain west of the town of Joseph. Kip was skiing backcountry with a friend visiting from out of town on a day off when, according to The Observer newspaper, an avalanche caught Kip at the top of a run while leaving his friend, Bill Vandenbos, unharmed. Kip was taken for approximately 600 vertical feet before coming to a stop.
While details about his injuries are still unknown at this time, we do know that Kip died of his injuries before Wallowa County Search and Rescue staff were able to reach him. Search and rescue was alerted via a SPOT tracker 911 call at 4:30 PM, and their staff arrived on scene roughly five hours later, just behind a group of backcountry skiers who arrived to help.
The last avalanche advisory for the area, posted Sunday morning, March 7th by Kip himself mentioned three principal avalanche hazards in eastern Oregon: wet slides due to a rain-on-snow event that effected snow conditions above 7,000', an upside-down snowpack as freezing levels dropped after the rain, and wind slabs near ridgelines facing the northeast, north, and the northwest. Conditions were expected to stabilize during this week.
Kip Rand Remembered As "Humble, Collected, and Thoughtful"
Kip Rand died tragically yesterday in the eastern Oregon backcountry. Photo via the Wallowa Avalanche Center
The Wallowa Avalanche Center, which had hired on Kip just this fall, remembered him as a dedicated and experienced avalanche professional who was humble, thoughtful, and set to grow the Center's program:
"Kip's commitment to the avalanche center and avalanche safety was immediately evident as he settled into his new position as Director of our organization in November of last year. He came to us with extensive avalanche training, many years of experience as a guide, avalanche educator and pro observer. Most of all, he came to us with a humble, collected and thoughtful demeanor as he spoke and shared his knowledge.
Kip was on a path to grow our non-agency, non-profit center and further increase avalanche awareness within our region. He continued our long standing policy of soliciting guidance from the National Avalanche Center, the American Avalanche Association and nearby larger established avalanche centers as we redesigned product and services to match our funding reserves and personnel.
We are humbled and appreciative of the support and encouragement received from the community and avalanche professionals around the nation."
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kip, his friends and family, and the Eastern Oregon backcountry community at this difficult hour. We will continue to update this story with relevant details as they become available. RIP, Kip!