Michael S. sent this in last night. If you have any illusions about wild animals having an easy life of prancing around the friendly wilderness, you need to see an animal trapped in the snow and you’ll know it sometimes aint all that pretty. I hope the backcountry skiing rescue attempt worked — nice to see the compassionate side of humanity.
Hi Lou, A group of us toured from Independence Pass to Grizzly the other day (Friday) and came across something you donâ€™t see every day. About a mile or less South from the pass on the way up to Mountain Boy (snow fence ridge) we stopped at around 5:30 AM to get a drink and noticed this large hole in the corniced ridge. Looking into the hole we found an elk â€“ alive and just trapped there looking back at us. He apparently walked across the tundra the afternoon of the day prior, started to posthole as he got onto the snow near the ridge, and then fell all the way into a sort of crevasse.
Elk trapped in the cornice hole.
Since the snow was frozen solid we couldnâ€™t really do much for the guy in the AM, so we threw him some grass and shrubs and continued our tour to Grizzly Chute. (Which btw was excellent spring skiing but as you can imagine it is a lot of backcountry skiing from the pass. ~10 miles round trip & ~5,000 ft of skiing. The early morning frozen, rock hard, bone chattering turns off the S side of Mtn Boy were interesting. )
On the way out we passed by the hole again and he was still stuck in there. Things looked grim so we started shoveling snow into his hole to make a sort of ramp. As you can see the hole was about one elk body wide, ~10 feet deep, and about 2 elk body lengths long. We made him a nice ramp and tried to prod him out with a ski pole and some more food but he was too spooked by us. We hope he climbed out after the snow froze or soon after we left.
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.