Rock fall and avalanche reported near the Dreamweaver Couloir on Sunday
Rescuers trudged through high-altitude snow and helicopters were called for medical airlifts after a Sunday morning avalanche struck three climbers, killing one and injuring two in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Around 9am on Sunday, a rock fall and avalanche was reported near the Dreamweaver Couloir, a steep, narrow gully on Mt Meeker in northern Colorado, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
A number of climbers witnessed the slide and alerted search and rescue officials.
Seeing a brief weather window for the high-altitude rescue, helicopters were sent to the snowy peaks at around 11,500 feet to medevac the victims. Initially, a male with severe injuries and a female with lesser injuries were recovered.
“Due to the location and severity of injuries of one of the males, Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members requested assistance from a Colorado National Guard helicopter from Buckley Air Force Base to extricate him via a hoist operation, using a winch operated cable,” the NPS said in a statement. “This occurred at approximately 2 pm when there was a brief weather window. Rocky Mountain Rescue assisted with the helicopter hoist operations.”
The man was flown to Medical Center of the Rockies for treatment, while the woman was flown down the mountain and driven to a nearby hospital.
Later, a team braved snowy conditions and poor visibility on foot to locate the third individual, a male who was found dead beneath avalanche debris.
Photos of the rescue show a team hiking through snow and rock fields during the search.
Rescure teams reportedly used a RECCO radar device and search dogs to assist with the hunt for the missing climber.
The identities of those involved in the accident have not been released publicly, pending notification of their families.
Experts believe that climate change, as well as cabin fever brought on by more time spent at home during the pandemic, could combine to create a greater risk of avalanche deaths on America’s alpine mountains. February 2021, for example, saw one of the highest rates of avalanche deaths in the US in 100 years.