CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2013/11/21 - Colorado - Rocky Mountain National Park-Dragon's Tail Couloir

Published 2013/12/27 by Scott Toepfer - Forecaster, CAIC

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Rocky Mountain National Park-Dragon's Tail Couloir
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2013/11/21
  • Time: 5:30 PM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 1 climber caught (twice)
  • Primary Activity: Climber
  • Primary Travel Mode: Foot


  • Caught: 1
  • Fully Buried: 0
  • Injured: 0
  • Killed: 0


  • Type: SS
  • Trigger: N - Natural
  • Trigger (subcode): --
  • Size - Relative to Path: --
  • Size - Destructive Force: --
  • Sliding Surface: I - New/Old Interface


  • Slope Aspect: S
  • Site Elevation: 11500 ft
  • Slope Angle: --
  • Slope Characteristic: Concave Slope

Accident Summary

About 3:00 PM November 21, 2013, two climbers were ascending "Enter The Dragon" on Dragontail Spire and the leader was just a few feet below the fixed anchor of pitch 3/4. The lead climber heard a loud noise above and looked up in time to see a small storm slab coming down the climb. Climber 1 was able to stay on the pitch as this slab over ran his position. Climber 2 was not hit as he was protected by overhanging rock. Climber 1 finished the pitch and tied into the fixed anchor, and then brought Climber 2 up. At this point both climbers knew it was time to get off the route and began rappels down the route and then toward 'Dragons Tail' couloir. Several rappels later, at about 5:30 PM, Climber 1 finished rappelling relatively low into Dragons Tail couloir, when they heard a noise like a freight train. Climber 2 was tied into a fixed tree anchor above, Climber 1 was not. Climber 1 looked up and saw a wall of white 5 to 10 feet high come over a prominent rock. Climber 1 stuck his axe and his crampons and prepared for the hit. A half second later he was cart wheeling down slope. After fighting to stay on top he popped to the surface disoriented. A few seconds later he heard another roar and was hit by another slab, which knocked him off his stance again, but he was able to log roll off this slab.<br><br> 
Climber 2 watched Climber 1's headlamp light appear and disappear several times as Climber 1 was carried down slope in the first avalanche. After this slide stopped Climber 2 waited for a second slab to run its course before rapping down to find Climber 1 dazed but uninjured. Both climbers ascended back to their rope to retrieve it before descending and hiking back to their car.