Lathrop Strang, a good friend of several folks we know, and son of former Colorado U.S. Rep. Michael Strang, perished yesterday after falling down one of the “Laundry Chute” couloirs on Mount Sopris, near here in Colorado.
Yesterday was a cold day and we suspect the couloirs on Sopris were quite icy in places, which may have contributed to the accident. On the whole, it appears to have been a difficult situation for all involved (see below). Local mountain rescue and Flight For Life performed the rescue. Our heartfelt condolences to all Lathrop Strang’s family and friends.
|The Laundry Chutes (above) are located on the northerly face of the east summit of Mount Sopris. While being skied and climbed since the 1960s, they’ve become a somewhat popular destination in recent years. Sources tell us the accident occurred in the chute at lookers right. The longest chute is about 900 vertical feet, the ones on the left are more frequently skied.|
As frequently seems to happen, preliminary news reports had some glaring inaccuracies. Out of respect to all the individuals involved, so there is accurate info out there, here is an edited and slightly condensed first person account of what happened (received in email from friend). Tough stuff to publish on a usually light hearted blog, but we felt it necessary.
We left the trailhead at 5:30 A.M., 5 skiers, Kirsten and Penn Newhard, Fletcher Yaw, Anda Smalls and Lathrop Strang.
At just after nine we reached the summit ridge above Thomas Lakes bowl, the standard winter ascent route. Conditions were sunny, solid, with 2-3 inches of new snow and temps warming from a cold night. Our group was experienced and in good spirits. Strang mentioned he had skied Sopris every spring since 1984.
Penn Newhard descended from the ridge forgoing the summit as he had work obligations. Kirsten Newhard accompanied Yaw (her brother), Strang and Smalls to the summit. At 10:00 A.M., the four decided to ski two different routes down. Smalls and K. Newhard went down their ascent route while Strang and Yaw headed down the steeper Laundry Chute directly below the East Summit of Sopris. The four agreed to meet at the car at the trailhead as opposed to the lakes so as not to miss each other.
After entering the chute together with Yaw, Strang went first and fell from near the top of the couloir. Due to difficult conditions in the lower couloir, Yaw had to take a circuitous route to reach Strang who was conscious but unresponsive. Yaw evaluated Strang, made him comfortable and put extra clothes on him and then left for help.
Due to the experience level and strength of Yaw and Strang, the rest of the group gave them some time when they did not arrive at the trailhead as planned. It was hoped they were simply dealing with broken gear or a bushwack while exiting their descent.
When Strang and F. Yaw were several hours late, the other three skiers contacted the sheriff’s department, knowing that time for a rescue might be needed before darkness set in.
The group would like to thank the sheriff department, Mountain Rescue Aspen and all involved for their timely, excellent and professional efforts.
Lathrop Strang will be greatly missed.
(Note, the correct name for the couloirs in the photo above is indeed the “LAUNDRY” Chutes. One is reluctant to present trivia in a post such as this, but it appears some folks think the word “Laundry” is a typo so I need to set the record straight. The name comes from Chris Landry’s nickname when he was ski racing, which was Laundry Chute. Back in the 1960s or 1970s, Chris enjoyed climbing the chutes and some folks got to calling them after his nickname. It’s unknown who did the first descents of any of the chutes, nor if Chris actually ever skied them. In those early days they were viewed more as snow climb challenges then ski descents.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.