It’s the second avalanche death in Washington in the past four weeks. Another person was hospitalized after being hurt on Mount Herman in what officials say was a "pretty frantic situation."
One person was killed and another was injured in an avalanche Sunday on Mount Herman, near the Mount Baker ski area, avalanche safety officials said.
The body of the victim has not been recovered, said Scott Schell, program director for the Northwest Avalanche Center. He said he did not have any information about the victim’s age or gender.
A second victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital, he said.
Search-and-rescue crews are planning to return to the area Monday to continue the search.
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Schell described the site as the north-facing flank of Mount Herman, an area adjacent to the Mount Baker Ski Resort.
It is backcountry, and he said the victims would have likely parked at the ski area and then worked their way uphill to get to the area where the accident occurred, because it was not accessible from a ski lift.
It was not known if they were traveling on skis, snowshoes or snowboards, he said, or if they were carrying transponders — devices that signal a person’s location in the event of an avalanche.
“I think it was a pretty frantic situation,” he said. “There was a 911 call placed by some people in the party.”
Mount Herman is 6,260 feet high, and its base is about 4,000 feet, Schell said. Witnesses told experts that the avalanche came down from above the victims.
Schell said the avalanche danger at this time is considered to be moderate, or a 2, on a scale of 1 to 5. However, the danger is heightened by what experts term a “persistent slab” — a persistently weak layer that can fail at any time. The slab was created by layers of frost that formed on Jan. 3 and Jan. 11, and have since been buried by snowfall. “It adds a whole level of uncertainty,” he said.
He described the terrain on Mount Herman’s north side as “relatively complicated, undulating terrain.”
The avalanche center will send two professional observers up to the site Monday “to try to get some answers as to how big the avalanche was,” Schell said.
It’s the second avalanche death in Washington in the past four weeks, and the seventh avalanche death in the U.S. in the last week alone, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.
In late December, Washington entrepreneur and outdoorsman Douglas W. Walker was killed in an apparent avalanche while snowshoeing and hiking on Granite Mountain.
The Northwest Avalanche Center is the official forecasting agency for Washington and Northern Oregon, and uses its network to let people know of the avalanche danger and tell when there has been an accident.