Three climbers killed in avalanche, swept 500 feet down the mountain

Over the weekend, three climbers were killed in an avalanche while attempting to climb an 8,705-foot mountain located in the Pacific Northwest. The group of six climbers, all from the East Coast, were attempting to climb Colchuck Peak when the lead climber accidentally triggered an avalanche while trying to climb the Northeast Couloir of the mountain. Four climbers were swept 500 feet down the mountain and three of them died from the trauma they sustained during the fall. The remaining climbers were a 56-year-old man from New York, a 50-year-old man from New York, and a 36-year-old man from New Jersey. The fourth survivor, a 53-year-old man from Maryland, hiked back to base camp and contacted authorities for help. Rescuers were unable to recover the bodies of the deceased climbers due to the hazardous conditions caused by the continuing avalanche. This event brings the total number of avalanche-related deaths to nine across the United States this winter.

A total of 22 rescuers from different mountain rescue groups responded to the incident, including Chelan County Mounty Rescue, Chelan County Volunteer Search and Rescue and ORV unit, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and Yakima Mountain Rescue. When officials reached the base camp on Monday, they decided it was too dangerous to continue their recovery mission due to the avalanche conditions and returned with the surviving climbers back to the trailhead.

As of Wednesday, rescuers have still not been able to return to the scene to recover the bodies of the three deceased climbers. The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Northwest Avalanche Center to assist in developing a recovery plan for the climbers’ bodies. Last winter, 17 deaths from avalanches were reported in the United States, with no single incident killing more than two people. This event marks the largest avalanche death toll since an avalanche in Utah killed four people on Feb. 6, 2021.

The Pacific Northwest is a region known for its unpredictable weather and frequent avalanches. Climbers and hikers must take precautions when traversing mountains to ensure their safety. The Northwest Avalanche Center provides daily avalanche forecasts and conditions on their website, and climbers are urged to check the site before heading out. Officials also recommend that climbers carry the appropriate gear, including avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, and have experience in mountaineering before attempting difficult climbs. The tragedy of the Colchuck Peak avalanche serves as a reminder of the dangers of mountain climbing and the importance of being prepared for unexpected conditions.

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