Peak 13,294 (Citadel), Dry Gulch, Loveland Pass area
February 17, 2003

2 Climbers Caught, 1 Buried and Killed

On Monday afternoon a 48-year-old Ken Caryl man was buried and killed in a large hard slab avalanche on the southeast face of point 13,294. This peak also known in climbing circles as the Citadel and by its lesser-known name -- Snoopy (for it resemblance of the Peanuts character on his dog house) -- by those who ski Loveland Basin.

Overview

Point 13,294 is the unnamed and unmarked summit along the Continental Divide between Hager Mtn. and Pettingell Peak. It is also just east of the "NT" in "CONTINENTAL"

Topo

The red circle represents approximate location of the avalanche.

Snoopy

The Citadel is also known as Snoopy when viewed from Loveland Basin Ski Area. The avalanche occurred on the slope (out of view) to the right of the Snoopy's belly. (photo Atkins, 2003)

The men had parked started their trip by following the Herman Gulch trail to the saddle east of pt. 13294 between Herman and Dry Gulches. From the there the men ascended the east ridge toward the summit of the peak. At some point below the summit they turned back and descended a short distance down the southeast ridge. High on the ridge they decided to traverse across the broad southeast-facing slope to gain the east ridge and retrieve some gear left earlier on the ascent. At about 3:15pm the pair triggered the avalanche.

One man took a short ride but stayed on top of the moving snow. After the avalanche and not spotting his friend he used his cell phone and called 911. The victim was not equipped with avalanche rescue gear.

Rescuers from Alpine Rescue Team, Loveland Ski Patrol, and Keystone Ski Patrol responded and searched into the evening without success. The search was suspended for the night.

On Tuesday morning rescuers returned. Trained avalanche dogs alerted in a few spots but their efforts failed to locate the buried man. Very dense avalanche debris may have been the reason the dogs struggled to detect a strong scent. Finally a little after 2pm a probe line located the deceased man under 4 to 5 feet of snow.

Avalanche Summary

This very large, hard slab avalanche was classified as HS-AF-4-O. The avalanche was triggered by the men (artificial foot) and ran on old snow. The fracture line depth generally ranged from 2-3 feet but up to 6 feet in places and extended about 550 feet across the slope. The avalanche started at about 12,880 feet and fell approximately 640 vertical feet down the southeast-facing slope. The slope angle ranged from 34 degrees near the top of the slide to 37 degrees. The alpha angle (angle from the toe of the debris to the fracture line) was 25 degrees.

The slope

The avalanche occurred on the broad SE-facing slope of Pt. 13,294. (photo Atkins, 2003)

Avalanche

The climbers ascended the right-hand ridge (east) and then headed to the summit (out of view). While descending they ended up on the left-hand ridge (southeast) and cut high across the slope back toward the east ridge. Close to the east ridge they triggered the avalanche. (photo Atkins, 2003)

Crown

Looking west across the top of the avalanche. The crown face (fracture line) is about 2 feet deep and the slope angle is 34 degrees. Lower down the slope steepened slightly to 37 degrees. The tracks are the photographer's (photo Atkins, 2003).

The backcountry avalanche danger forecast issued Sunday afternoon (valid for Monday morning) for the N Mountains was "generally moderate with pockets of considerable near and above treeline on NW-NE-SE aspects. Triggered avalanches are possible to probable.... The wind tonight will only stiffen these slabs so Monday's releases in the N Mountains will likely be larger." Early Monday morning the danger was upgraded to CONSIDERABLE near and above treeline on all aspects on the CAIC telephone hotline.

Notes: News reports have incorrectly identified the peak as Centennial or Sentinel. Also reported was the men were snowshoers, but they were actually peak c limbers and were not using snowshoes while high on the peak.

Atkins, 2/18/2003; updated on 2/19