At approximately 1400 hours on February 3rd, 2021, a backcountry skier and snowboarder were caught in an avalanche near Etna Summit. Both had many years of backcountry experience, carried a beacon, shovel and probe and were familiar with the area. The two reached the top of their intended descent route below a ridge line and were preparing to transition to ski/board when the avalanche occurred. Both riders were carried down the slope. The victim was quickly pinned and buried against a tree within 20-30 feet of their transition location. Rider 2 was swept through the trees and partially buried a distance down the slope. He immediately grabbed his avalanche beacon to prepare to search, but it malfunctioned. He began to dig in the most likely burial location he thought, back up the slope in the tree well and miraculously exposed a ski pole, which led to the buried victim. Approximately 25-30 minutes had passed since the initial burial. Rider 2 performed CPR for over an hour, but was unable to revive his partner.
After discussion with Rider 2, he stated that they performed a beacon check in the parking lot before they began their tour. Both beacons were functioning and had good battery life. Further investigation found a corroded battery compartment of the beacon which likely led to the malfunction.
After the accident, Rider 2 made his way back to his vehicle and drove to Etna for cell service and to call 911. Siskiyou County SAR, the Klamath National Forest, a California Highway Patrol helicopter (H-14) and the USFS Mount Shasta Avalanche Center were notified. It was after sunset by this time. All agencies mobilized at 0700 the next morning and traveled to Etna Summit. Two rescuers were inserted near the avalanche via CHP H-14. The victim was hoisted off the mountain shortly after. All personnel were off the mountain by 1200 hours.