CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2021/02/03 - California - Etna Summit, west of Etna

Published 2021/02/05 by Forecaster - Mount Shasta Avalanche Center

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Etna Summit, west of Etna
  • State: California
  • Date: 2021/02/03
  • Time: 12:00 AM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 2 backcountry tourers caught, 1 partially buried, 1 buried and killed
  • Primary Activity: Backcountry Tourer
  • Primary Travel Mode: Ski


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


  • Type: HS
  • Trigger: AS - Skier
  • Trigger (subcode): u - An unintentional release
  • Size - Relative to Path: R2
  • Size - Destructive Force: D2
  • Sliding Surface: --


  • Slope Aspect: NW
  • Site Elevation: 6650 ft
  • Slope Angle: 39 °
  • Slope Characteristic: --

Accident Summary

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. The survivor 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. The survivor performed CPR for over an hour, but was unable to revive his partner. 

After discussion with the victim's partner, 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. 

Mount Shasta Avalanche Center report