March 11-12, 2023 – A Heavy Weekend on Patrol

The weekend of March 11-12 started out like many others on patrol, with some fresh snow and expectations of a good day on the hill. As usual, I made the drive up early to the Pass with Shaun, and arrived before 7:30 am to get the patrol room unlocked and ready to go. A short time later, the rest of the crew arrived, and soon after we kicked the day off with our morning meeting.

Patrick running the ridge

The plan for the morning was to get a couple of our patrollers who were avalanche certified but hadn’t spent much time on our avalanche route out for some training, and we did just that after opening the front side of the hill. With the saddle closed while we worked to get the route done and the runs open, Tyler, Patrick and I headed out run the route, making the short hike to the top of Peak 2 and then ski cutting our way down one at a time to the ridge above June’s Run.

Controlling the nose with Tyler

After working our way along the ridge cutting cornices and getting some snow to run, we arrived at the Nose and pulled out the rope to setup the anchor and ski cut the slope while on belay. Tyler volunteered to go on the sharp end while I belayed, and Patrick took my camera and snapped a few pictures of the action.

Belaying Tyler on the avy route
Heading out the ridge on belay

After controlling the Nose, Tyler headed on out the ridge and made a few ski cuts, and then we pulled the rope and anchor and headed down to the second anchor point. From there, it was a quick discussion about setting up the anchor system again, and then we skied into the Meadow, following safe protocols on our way to the rendezvous point at the treeline skier’s right at the bottom of the meadow.

Scoring the goods after control work

At the bottom of the Meadow, we discussed the route, and then headed down to the lift to hitch a ride back to the top. As we were departing, Ian came down through the Meadow, so I snapped a couple of pics as he descended.

Ian enjoying the Meadow

At the top of Peak 2, I ran into Silas, Edward and Shaun, and was able to convince them to pose for a picture before I headed down to the base with the avy pack and gear.

Silas, Edward and Shaun at the top of Peak 2

While on the way down, near the bottom, a call came over the radio that no patroller wants to hear — a report of an unresponsive skier who collapsed in the lift line at the base. Being that I was just at the Race Shack, I was the closest patroller in the vicinity, so I let the crew know that I would respond, but as Hill Chief I wanted to have another patroller be first on as soon as they could relieve me. Chris radioed that he was near the top of Twilight and would be right down, so I headed down and found one of our Mountain Hosts near the patient in the middle of the lift line on what turned out to be our busiest day of the year. Without getting into details, the patient wasn’t breathing and had a faint pulse (that went to no pulse a couple of minutes later), so I immediately made the call to dispatch and asked for an ambulance and LifeFlight. Long story short, over the next 45 minutes to an hour, a team of patrollers led by Shannon and Chris, as well as a couple of bystanders, provided CPR and much other care and support for the patient before they ultimately left the area via LifeFlight. The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the scene and restocking our BLS packs, documenting what happened, rehashing and debriefing the incident, and getting the hill closed for the day. Needless to say, the incident weighed heavily on everyone who was involved, but all things considered, I was incredibly proud of how our our team handled the situation. From the patrollers involved to the Mountain Hosts that provided assistance to the SPY that closed Sleepy and helped prepare the LZ, everyone did their part. Several days later, we learned our patient would make a full recovery, which is nothing short of remarkable.

Shaun ready to close Waldo

The last couple of hours of the day were somewhat of a blur, but we managed to get the hill closed and then had a larger debrief meeting after our regular routine evening meeting. After such a difficult day, I was definitely in the mood for a cold one, and a tasty Shred Kindly hazy IPA from Oakshire Brewing helped take the edge off.

A tasty hazy IPA from Oakshire

Eventually, it was time to close the patrol room up for the afternoon, and after reviewing the incident reports and documentation, Shaun and I headed down to the valley, exhausted from a long day. The following morning, Shaun was eager to head back to the Pass with a couple of his friends. After the heavy day the day before, I can’t say I shared his desire, but nevertheless we headed up. When we arrived at the patrol room, Patrol 3 was discussing the previous day’s incident and getting ready to open the hill.

Meghan outside the patrol room on a nice morning

With Shaun skiing with his friends, I wasn’t super stoked on heading out immediately, and instead opted to work with Laurie and the toboggan crew who were up for RTS belay training. It was a great way to take my mind off the previous day’s incident, and a good refresher since it had been a few years since I last ran through it. We started off with the anchor setup and belay device in the aid room, then moved up to the top of the hill to practice there.

Running through the RTS Belay setup
Trial run-through near the top of EPA

It was a good refresher, and I was enjoying just being around patrol. A few minutes before we headed back to the top to get ready for the real thing on RTS, I saw Shaun unload the chair with Jesse and Henry, and skied a lap with them down Good Time…

Jesse, Shaun and Henry on Good Time

After our run, we spun back around to the top of EPA and I was just in time to catch the group as they were ready to depart with the sled down to RTS. Ian grabbed the handles and Jenn was on the tail rope, and we headed off to the belay tree.

Ian running the sled down to the belay tree
Holding the sled on RTS

A few moments later, we had the run closed and the crew had the sled staged, the anchor setup and the belay on. 

Jenn holding the tailrope
The RTS Belay Sled anchored up
Tyler and Ian on RTS
Laurie surveying the anchor setup

Once the anchor was setup and the belay was on, folks took turns in the handles as well as running the belay system. Tyler headed down first, and the others followed. Eventually everyone had a turn and Gretchen brought the sled to the bottom of RTS after the belay was taken off.

Belaying the sled down RTS
Ian and Gretchen near the bottom

We pulled the rope down, flaked it back into the pack, and headed down to the base with the pack and sled in tow. I went in to eat lunch, then spent the rest of the day making turns with Shaun, Henry and Jesse. It got pretty wet towards the end of the day, so we left a few minutes ahead of closing. On the drive down, I reflected on the weekend, and although it was a challenging one, I was happy with how the events unfolded, as well as the great people on patrol that I was fortunate enough to share them with.

Ian and Tyler stacking the rope post-belay