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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Avalanche Death St Anton Feb 06

    Last winter I spent a couple of months in St Anton as a skibum. For the first 3 weeks I was there I lived in a neighbouring village of Pettneu, which is a bit cheaper and has a lot of Swedish skibums. I got to know most of the Pettneu Swedish crew fairly well and did a fair amount of skiing with some of them.

    I arrived in St. Anton in the Middle of January and the snow was pretty bad until around the last week of February with very few significant dumps until then. In the last week of Feb and the first week of March it dumped non-stop, with snow coming down 14 days in a row.

    On the morning of the third day of the dump I met up with a group of about 7 of the Swedish guys. We skied Bachseite while we waited for the Kapall lift to open. After a couple of runs I ran into a couple of other mates of mine. I joined up with them and left the Swedish guys. I had been getting a bit irritated because the group was way too big and they were not all great skiers.

    Shortly after that the Kapall lift opened so we raced across and were pretty much the first people to get onto the lift. We got first tracks on Schöngraben with about 20-30cm fresh powder. We started doing laps, trying to get in as many lines as possible before it was all tracked out.

    Some time around 13:00, at the start of our 3rd or 4th lap, as we were leaving the piste to get onto Schöngraben, a mountain rescue patroller skied past us (badly). We asked him if something was going and he replied that we were all arseholes. We didn’t think much of it - he was probably just doing a random ski around and was in a bad mood.

    As we came towards the end of the main section of Schöngraben, the point where it starts to flatten out, we saw a small group of people, including an instructor, standing where Dörli, a steep sided chute that starts close to the top of the Kapall lift, joins up with Schöngraben. We skied over to see what was happening. A guy was lying in the snow on his back while another guy was pumping away at his chest trying to resuscitate him. The patroller we had seen was unpacking his first aid gear, including electrodes to attach to the guys chest. We spoke to the instructor, whom we vaguely knew, to find out what was going on.

    The instructor said that he and some colleagues had been skiing Schöngraben, had looked up the Dörli chute and had seen the debris from a slide. Close to the top of the slide zone there was a line of skiers with probes probing the slide zone. He and his group skied across to the bottom of the slide zone and conducted a visual search. At the end of the slide zone they spotted a glove sticking out of the snow. They started digging and found the body buried about 20-30cm beneath the surface. They immediately started CPR. From what he understood the guy who was buried had been buried for at least 20 minutes before they had found him.

    We watched the scene for around 15 minutes. While the resuscitation efforts were going on, a guy was sitting next to the body with one of his hands on his head, and just aimlessly hitting the snow with skipole held in his other hand. He was dressed in baggy skiing gear, had a helmet, backpack, and fat skis and didn’t look any different from the rest of us out there that day.

    We decided to call it a day and get off the mountain. None of us felt like doing any more skiing that day. We wrote off the guy caught in the avalanche as just another lemming.

    I headed for the bar and bumped into a mate I had been skiing with the day before. Earlier that day he had been caught in a slide elsewhere in the resort and had been buried up to his arms and had lost both his skis. In the bar I also heard the good news that the guy I had seen lying in the snow had been resuscitated.

    That evening I got a call from a Swedish mate that I skied with almost every day. He told me that he had heard from some of the other Swedish guys that the avalanche victim was Mikke, one of the Pettneu skibums that I knew. Mikke was part of the group that I had started off skiing with that morning. After I had gone to ski with my other mates the large group of Swedish guys had split up and they had also all made their way over to Schöngraben. Mikke and the guys he was with had not skied Schöngraben before so when they got to the top of the Kapall lift they ended up following a set of tracks that lead into the Dörli chute rather than the main Schöngraben slope. While they were skiing down Dörli, a slide came down one of the walls of the chute narrowly missing them. None of the group had been caught in the slide but they thought that someone above them had possibly triggered the slide and been caught in it. They switched their beacons on to receive and began checking the slide zone. A second slide had then came down and caught Mikke, dragging him around 150m down to the end of the chute. Because his beacon was now on receive, the remaining guys formed a line and started probing at the top of the slide zone, slowly making their way down the chute. It was at some point after this that the instructor skiing down Schongraben had spotted the glove sticking out of the slide debris. Something like 30 minutes of resuscitation efforts by the emergency team Mikke heart started beating again. It took them a while to get him to a rescue helicopter due to the difficulty of landing a helicopter close by. Once they loaded him into a helicopter he was flown to hospital.

    It had however taken too long to revive Mikke. By the time his heart started beating again he had been out for around 45 minutes. That night or the next morning Mikke´s life support was switched off and he passed away.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    That is very sad. He died trying to save a buried victim that did not exist.

    It is a terrible lesson to remember that when helping others, first protect yourself:

    Is it safe to get to the deposition?
    Is it safe to be in the deposition searching?
    Is it appropriate to consider any rescue effort based on the circumstances and the risks? Meaning, how certain is the likelyhood of a save versus the risks and what risks are appropriate?
    Should you post an avi guard?
    there are many question to be asked... always watch your back and watch your buddies' backs

    It sounds like he was buried with a beacon in receive... is this so? Was his a beacon that would autorevert to transmit?
    Last edited by Summit; 01-17-2007 at 01:57 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    The big lesson is make sure you know where you are going.

    A few years back mountain rescue waited something like a week before they were prepared to go and retrieve bodies of skiers that had been caught in a slide. Most of the people who have spent a while in the Arlberg will not ski Dörli under any conditions.

    His beacon was on receive and he was dug out between 20 and 30mins after the slide.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Panama - Boquete
    was your friend (the one who lost both skis) burried below the top of Gampberg? i was there at about this time with my friend from N.Y...we met few Norwegian/Swedish skiers at the top negotiating about if it goes or not...i skied first, then my friend, then the first guy from their party triggered an avy that missed me by few meters...he ended up 100m below us, burried to his something with his leg but otherwise was fine...
    my first experience with a slide and definitely a scary one...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    No the slide he was in was close to St. Christoph, not on the Rendl side. There have apparantly been a couple of slides around the Gampberg lift with people buried this year.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    East Coast
    Just saw this post. I concur that knowing where you are going is particularly important in Schöngraben. I think that the Dörli chute might be one of the single most dangerous pieces of terrain in St. Anton.

    Thaks for relating this story. Very sad stuff.
    Fresh Tracks are the ultimate graffitti.

    Set forth the pattern to succeed.
    Sam Kavanagh

    Friends of Tuckerman Ravine

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