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Squaw, March, 2018: Caught in a Massive Avalanche, and Surviving | High Sierra Backpacker

Squaw, March, 2018: Caught in a Massive Avalanche, and Surviving

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 30 March 2018


Caught in a Massive Avalanche

And Surviving...

Squaw Valley worker emerges from avalanche wrecked, but alive,
Truckee Sun, March 15, 2018.

Our breaking climate, specifically, the Polar Vortex splitting into two Vortexes, and one of them sliding down the North Hemisphere over the NE Yukon swept a vast mass of very cold Arctic Circle air South, down the West Coast of California and across the Sierra.

A couple of vast plumes of tropical moisture out of the Southwest crossed through this ultra cold displaced Arctic air, along with a couple of Cold Fronts out of the North.
Amazingly, the tropical moisture that typically falls on the Sierra as wet, heavy, thick, "Sierra Cement" fell as super-light powder. The Northern Fronts produced even more preimum powder snow conditions, much more typical of the Rockies than the Sierra.

Dangerous avalanche conditions developed immediately, followed by a series of avalanches. Below we have a good account of what it's like to be swept away by a large avalanche.
We don't have many of these types of accounts, as the event is typically fatal. This account speaks to the dangers of Winter travel in the Sierra, showing us how high-level experts can sometimes get swept away as easily as rookies.

This account also gives us an inside-view of what it's like to "keep your head" when shit goes way wrong. Marty surfed the white wave of death down a High Sierra face and survived because he remained observant, engaged, and reactive within his collapsing environment.


Squaw Valley Lift Mechanic

Marty Boline

"As part of his job, he skis down the mountain in order to examine equipment and conditions along the way."

"...one lap on KT-22..."

"...came across three lift operations supervisors, who were skiing together."

"...we got underneath Oly Lady, and I was the first one to drop in."

"and I saw the whole face just bubble and break up. I knew it was a big avalanche at that point."

"...he didn't have any speed, so he couldn't shoot across and get to a safe point."

"...so there's two pine trees like 10 feet below me; at that point I have moved yet. I was just watching everything start to break apart, and then when it took me I had to go about 10 feet and put my skis sideways and braced myself across these two little pine trees. And it stopped me," Boline said."

"...suddenly one of the trees bent down, and he got shot out."

"...riding down a layer of ice, Boline said he felt a hard impact on his right leg and knew at that moment his femur had been broken."

"He eventually ended up buried in a basin."

"...I start thrashing around a little bit … I didn't want to freak out because I knew I only had so much oxygen."

"While buried in the snow, he was able to control his breathing and wrestle one of his arms free from a ski pole strap."

"...I knew I wasn't that deep, so that was a good thing … so I just scratched away. It was hard, obviously … I was pretty close, so I took a break. I was getting a little bit better air … I didn't want to pass out. That was my biggest fear."

"...as his breathing became easier, he was then able to move snow around his head and finally get it free."

"...he saw ski patrol coming down the mountain doing an avalanche beacon sweep."

"And I'm like 'Oh my god. These guys are going to pass me and they're not going to see me.'

"One of the patrollers heard him, and said to keep yelling so he could be located."

"He underwent multiple surgeries, and spent nearly a week in the hospital before he was released."


I'm sure I'm speaking for all the Winter Mountaineers here on Tahoe to Whitney when wishing Marty a rapid recovery and return to the brutal beauties of working the High Sierra during Winter.



Also See

Winter of 2018, March 15

Calendar Conditions, March 15




Mountain Safety 2018: Mammoth Mountain Avalanche



Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center





Mega-Monster Twins in Tibet


Avalanche Death & Weather


New Safety


Death for Bighorn


All Avalanche News



March Trail News



Nature News


Climate Destruction News



Bee News

Bear News

Spider Forum

Bird News

Small Mammals

Frogs and Reptiles

Butterfly News


Health and Fitness

Mountain Safety

Mosquito News

Female Trail

High Sierra History


Astro-Phys, Space, & Science News

High Sierra Geology News

Fish, Oceans, & Water News



All High Sierra News





mountain safety news March 2018 Marty survives Squaw Valley avalanche


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