The two men (one died in the avalanche) were crampon climbing up the Cristo Couloir, a large couloir and frequent avalanche path on 14,265 feet Quandary Peak’s south face. Cristo is a popular spring climb and backcountry ski descent once the snow is consolidated and somewhat avalanche safe — but it is prime avalanche terrain during winter conditions, and these men were not the first to get caught in a slide here.
It’s inconceivable why these men would choose to climb (together no less) directly up an avalanche path when there was obvious snow accumulation, and the hazard was rated, according to the CAIC as “CONSIDERABLE with pockets of HIGH in recently drifted lee areas.” A rating of “HIGH” means avalanches are likely — even without a human to trigger them. Thus, what these guys were doing was no different than pointing a loaded gun at your head and tying the trigger to a tree branch waving in the wind.
More, near the Cristo Couloir you can climb numerous rocky ribs and shoulders that are relatively (or even 100%) safe from avalanches, and the east ridge route, if followed with care, is also mostly safe from avalanches. Very strange — yet another example of why the “human factor” is the buzz in avalanche safety these days.
The victim was buried about 5 feet deep and found dead at 4:30 PM by an avalanche cadaver dog from the Breckenridge Ski Patrol. The accident was reported via cell phone by the victim’s companion, who later stated he may have been swept down the couloir by a secondary slide after his friend was taken from below him — actually making this event TWO avalanche accidents!
At this time It’s unknown if the men had avalanche safety training, nor how experienced they were.
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.