Tragic Avalanche Claims Life of Hiker on Split Mountain in California

Published 07/09/2023, 2:09 PM EDT

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Split Mountain, a majestic peak nestled in the Sierra Nevadas near Big Pine, California, has become the unfortunate backdrop for a devastating incident. On a seemingly serene Sunday afternoon, disaster struck when an avalanche, described as a “wet, loose avalanche,” engulfed three hikers as they descended from the mountain they had successfully conquered.

The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office reported the heartbreaking news. They revealed one hiker lost their life, while the other two suffered varying degrees of injuries.

A race against nature’s fury

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At approximately 4:30 p.m., the sheriff’s office received a distress call. The call alerted them to the avalanche’s occurrence at an altitude of 12,500 feet on Split Mountain, just above Red Lake. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, authorities swiftly initiated rescue operations.

Tragically, one hiker’s injuries proved fatal, as confirmed by the avalanche center, leaving the community in mourning. Meanwhile, the two survivors were fortunate to escape with minor to moderate injuries and were promptly evacuated.

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As dawn broke on Monday, a glimmer of hope appeared with the arrival of a California Highway Patrol helicopter. It was summoned to retrieve the fallen hiker’s body.

However, the unforgiving weather thwarted their efforts, making it too perilous to proceed. Undeterred, the valiant rescuers resolved to navigate the treacherous terrain on foot, scaling the steep slopes to reach the avalanche site.

In retrospect, the avalanche center shed light on the nature of the calamity, describing it as a “very small wet, loose avalanche.” Though relatively small, it proved powerful enough to sweep all three hikers down the steep and rocky terrain.

The sheriff’s office emphasized the hazardous snow conditions resulting from warm temperatures, warning that slipping on a steep, soft snow slope could lead to an uncontrollable fall. Furthermore, melting snow unleashed sudden rockfalls on the steep slopes, exponentially increasing the risk for unsuspecting adventurers.

A season of peril

Regrettably, this tragic incident marks the fourth serious mission for Inyo County’s search-and-rescue teams in just three weeks. The region has witnessed six lives lost in harrowing events involving snow, swift water, and extreme heat throughout the season.

These circumstances serve as a stark reminder of the challenges posed by the colossal snowpack and the ongoing melting process in the backcountry. Additionally, authorities are urging everyone engaged in outdoor activities or traveling amid intense heat to exercise extreme caution.

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Moreover, inexperienced hikers are encouraged to acquire formal snow travel and avalanche training before venturing onto steep snow slopes. Investing in proper preparation and education can be the crucial difference between life and death.

In memory and moving forward

As we mourn the loss of a fellow adventurer, our thoughts and condolences extend to the grieving family. The tragedy serves as a somber reminder of the risks we face amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world. Let us honor his memory by forging ahead with heightened awareness and a commitment to responsible exploration.

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In light of recent events, we also leave you with a thought-provoking question. Are we truly prepared to navigate the unpredictable forces of nature?

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Written by:

Kumar Rohan

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Kumar Rohan is a writer at EssentiallySports who covers Sports Viral Moments. He is a sports journalist with a knack for writing. His sports expertise comes in handy when he breaks down events skilfully, in his own style.
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Edited by:

Priyadarshini Ajay