February 17, 2013 all-day

Name: Jim Giglinto
Email: jtgiglin@gw.dec.state.ny.us
Comments: This event highlights the need to make your own observations and just because someone else climbed or skied, doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential weak layer can fail.  The Trap Dike had been climbed by multiple parties just prior to this event.  I have included a picture of the partial burial.  This group was extremely lucky that both weren’t buried or they didn’t cause another party to get caught.  Both people have level 1 training, but did not perform any stability tests, even though there was significant evidence of wind slab.
Date of Avalanche: 02/17/2013
Time of Avalanche: approx. 1100
Location of Avalanche: Trap Dike
Elevation of Avalanche: 3300-3400
Aspect of Avalanche: west
Slope Angle: 30-38
Trigger: human
Type of Avalanche: slab
Weak Layer: facets over ice layer
Depth: 1 – 2 feet
Width: 30 – 40 feet
Length: 125
Number of People Caught: 2
Number of People Carried: 1
Number of People Partially Buried: 1
Number of People Fully Buried: 0
Number of People Injured: 0
Number of People Killed: 0


18 Responses

  1. David Lottmann at · Reply

    Where’s the photo?

  2. Garth at · Reply

    Scary photo. Glad everyone is OK. I heard that Trap Dike has changed a lot post Irene, but haven’t had a chance to see it for myself. Are the features more avalanche prone now?

    1. Mike P. at · Reply

      Probably more prone, there were some pre & post Irene pictures posted on one of the websites. B.I., there was a lot more vegetation which would help hold the snow. (I suppose in the right conditions, you could have had a much larger avalanche as it would have held more snow., the amount of slope really did not change)

      The P.I. pictures looked like someone had taken a power washer to the entire trap dike & flushed everything out. For teh time being, there is just just material to hold snow.

  3. Adam at · Reply

    Jim, this info might be more helpful to everyone if it was posted sooner than NINE DAYS after the incident.

    1. Jim at · Reply

      unfortunately I didn’t receive the information until the day I posted it. And actually heard abiut it by accident. That is why it is important for people to notify me or post it hear, so the information can get distributed. Regardless, there are lessons to be learned here

      1. Adam at ·


      2. James E. Close at ·

        Maybe if DEC had a “Report Trail/Avalanche Conditions” link on their website, monitored by Region 5 Rangers, then these things could get reported in a timely manner so that nine days doesn’t pass before it gets out to the climbing community. That’s notwithstanding the fine role that existing internet forums such as this play.

      3. Garth at ·

        Sounds like a good idea…

  4. Mahk at · Reply

    Were they carrying beacon-shovels-probes to anyone’s knowledge?

    1. Jim at · Reply

      they were carrying shovels, there were also no stability tests performed

      1. Mahk at ·

        Hmmm ….. they had shovels which are more bulky and awkward to carry than probes or beacons which they did not bring. Plus they had prior L1 training. Seems a bit strange from here in my comfortable spot behind a screen. Perhaps an L1 Refresher of sorts or joining AAA so they could get the TAR to remind them of avalanches is in order. Many thanks for posting this, Jim.

  5. matt at · Reply

    That is a first! a actual picture of someone buried in an avalanche in the Adirondacks!
    I hope that this picture awakens people to the danger we here.

  6. Sylvain at · Reply

    Of course we had a probe and avalanche transceiver. The problem is that this road last year was not a problem. However, by carefully observing winds and snow acculation in the gully we could make a better decision through the left on a more rock instead of going to the right where there was snow.

    1. Jim at · Reply

      Would you say that because familiarity with the Trap Dike, gave you a sense of security and didn’t feel the need to dig a pit

  7. Sylvain at · Reply

    Yes, I think that’s one factor that diminished our alertness. You don’t spend much time in this area either. To tell the truth, it surprises me because the slope angle in that part seems more or less 25 degrees and maybe that’s why there was not enough energy to throw us down the Dike. I think that choosing the path more carefully by observing the terrain is enough. Stay on the left on the rock & ice instead of going in that snow accumulation path, be careful.

  8. David Lottmann at · Reply

    Digging pits is rarely the answer especially when the problem is wind slab. I haven’t been on this route but by the looks of it there’s no safe slope to get onto to dig. There’s been many cases where people are triggered avalanches while digging pits. The best observations we can make in these circumstances are weather related.

  9. Jim at · Reply

    True, but is a good habit to get into as not to relay on other peoples information. In addition over familiarity will get someone on trouble, it is one of the heuristic traps associated with avy incidents. I also ask these questions as this is information required for the National Avalanche Center report.

  10. Eric at · Reply

    Its important to remember that, especially being trained at Avalanche Level 1, that digging pits is not the sole decision making criteria for going or not going. At this level of training pits are used to confirm what is broadcast in an avalanche bulletin, and since the Adirondacks doesn’t have one, and what is posted is almost useless, telling people to dig a pit is not really the answer. It is very likely that digging a pit at the bottom of the trap dike would have revealed little in the way of useful information in this instance. while the points are well taken about the perils of using other’s information, and making your own assessments, what is really needed is a more proactive approach from land managers IF this is an issue that gets properly addressed.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: