BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Search and rescue crews found the body of a man after an avalanche in Rocky Mountain National Park swept up three people attempting to climb the Dreamweaver Couloir on Mt. Meeker.
“Here in Colorado we’ve had an avalanche death every month of the year except September,” Dale Atkins, the former president of the American Avalanche Association said.
Atkins also works in search and rescue in the high country. He said there are two types of avalanches depending on the season. There are dry snow avalanches during the winter months and wet snow avalanches during the warmer months.
He said wet snow avalanches pose a risk because the high elevations get significant snowfall, followed by warm summer-like days creating a recipe for avalanches.
“When it comes to wet snow avalanches it’s the climbers at the greatest risk. They are at steep slopes and narrow gullies where a little snow can cause problems,” Atkins said.
Pinpoint Meteorologist Chris Tomer, an avid hiking expert, told us Sunday he’s been up in the area where the avalanche took place.
“It’s a technical route,” Tomer said.
Tomer said despite the Colorado Avalanche Information Center having the avalanche threat at low to moderate, it’s hikers’ and climbers’ responsibility to assess the route and the stability of the snow.
He said it’s also important to head to the high country with the expectation that you may need to turn around because the conditions aren’t good.
“You may have other hikers or climbers above you on a busy holiday weekend,” Tomer said.
He said that the climb the group at RMNP was on is about 15 miles roundtrip and they most likely started in the middle of the night. They could have been met with afternoon thunderstorms, making the rescue more difficult.
“You get rescue groups there on the ground to find the people and assess the situation. Then maybe you can get air support in between storms, maybe you can’t,” Tomer said.
Atkins said it’s important no matter the season to always have avalanche survival gear with you if you’re heading into an area where there is snow.