We were heading up to Thredbo for a tour when we received a message from a client with his report of being caught and buried in an avalanche at Etheridge Ridge the previous day. His description was so detailed and he truly thought his life was over, we changed our plans immediately and headed out there to view the site and try to understand how and why the slide happened. Below is an abridged account from the victim and the photos we took today. We are so grateful that the victim shared his story and hope it encourages others to share their observations and experiences so we all can learn and stay safe.
At around 12:30pm I was buried in at least a class 3 avalanche at etheridge ridge. I estimate class 3 as there was more than 1000 tonnes of snow in the slide, perhaps many times that. My wife and I had already ridden several lines on the face during the morning, performing a hand shear test first up with no signs of instability. After several runs she decided she'd had enough so I began snowshoeing back up the face for one last line. I had chosen a small rock lined ridge line to follow up that was quite firm and wind scoured and felt like a safe route. About halfway up there was all of a sudden a thunderous boom and the ENTIRE face top to bottom about 150m wide began to slide. It happened in a split second. I tried to run? to who knows where, but was immediately pulled completely under into darkness and immense pressure. I was tumbled several times with snow pushed hard against my face, but was surprisingly completely calm with the realisation that I was about to be buried and this is how it all ends. As the motion began to slow the weight of the snow began to bear down and there was an eerie silence and with one last tumble I saw the light and I came to rest completely buried in an upright standing position with just my head and 1 arm above the surface. The sudden silence and stillness was deafening, even more suprisingly again I was completely calm and relaxed. I was able to dig my other arm out and reach my pack that had broken it's straps and was pushed up around my head. I took out my shovel and was able to slowly extricate myself. It's funny what a traumatic experience will do to you as once I had dug down to my waist I took my phone out and filmed myself still half buried and while I continued to free myself. Upon freeing my legs it was evident that I had a possible broken ankle but was able to pull myself up onto the debris field and slide on my back down and about 100m clear. During all this my wife performed amazingly, she was already on the phone to 000 and had her transceiver out and in search mode making her way back up the slope. Unfortunately she had been about 300m away waiting down the bottom and had not seen me go under and had not seen my last position. I can't even imagine what she has gone through witnessing the whole thing and having to put into action what we had only just learnt days prior. In the end, 000 had alerted Thredbo medical and they got a crew up on sleds to get us both out and back to safety. Now at home assessing my equipment, one pole is missing the other snapped in half, my snowboard that was strapped to my pack has a destroyed binding and severe gouges in the base and top sheet. There is no doubt the board on my back saved me from being crushed against rocks. Currently sitting at home sipping a scotch with my ankle in a moon boot, season over..... But ALIVE I'm happy for you to share this story as it's important for people to know.
On our first AST1 course in NSW this season, we had an example of a class 1 sign from the carpark that morning - an avalanche under the cornice on East Tate Ridge. Assumed it was a natural slide. Next day though, one of our course participants sent us this video. Rider and photographer unknown...