Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

22 Jan 2018

2 skiers caught in avalanche by Red Mountain Pass. R.I.P. Abel Palmer

Posted by Adam Howell


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Right before starting my descent by Red Mountain Pass, I skinned past two skiers getting ready to descend from a spot where I had difficulty navigating from in the past. But I didn’t think that their run would end with one of them dead.

Photo taken from the CAIC website.

Photo borrowed from the CAIC website.

So I just told them to have fun, and went to my drop point for Sam’s Trees, on skier’s right of the main draw.

I would soon discover that those guys got caught in an avalanche in the other draw on skier’s left of Sam’s Trees.

It was an aspect with a 38 degree slope that I had seen slide before.

Either way, I didn’t think that they would go down that particular way.

I failed to try to talk these guys out of it because I thought that they could find a safe way down.

They had their plan, and I was splitboarding alone.

When I was about half way down my descent, I passed a couple that was skiing the same line that I was on.

We both heard a distressed call for help from the drainage next to us. “Help!”

Investigating further, we traversed skiers left to the top of this ridge where we could see a guy below, without skis at the bottom of the slide debris.

Photo taken from the the CAIC website.

Photo borrowed from the the CAIC website.

The slide path was around 240 feet wide and 230 feet long, according to the CAIC.

Dylan Knight was the man below, and he was frantically trying to get us to either skin up the hill to rescue his friend who wasn’t breathing, or go call 911 to request a helicopter.

We were yelling at eachother just to communicate, from about 100 feet away, as I tried to get an assessment of the situation, and what he needed.

The couple that I passed earlier came over to the ridge and we made a plan for who’s going to stay and do cpr for the victim, and who’s going to skin out and drive down the road to call 911.

After determining that the guy with the girlfriend had cpr training, I decided to go down to find cell service and call 911.

It took me a while to ride to the bottom, skin out, and drive down the road before I got cellular service and called for help.

Then, Deputy John Jacobs arrived on scene as Incident Commander and got help with the rescue mission with people from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, San Juan County Search and Rescue, San Miguel County Search and Rescue, the Silverton San Juan County Ambulance Association, La Plata County Search and Rescue and the Silverton Avalanche School.

Part of the rescue was done in the dark.

CPR was attempted on Abel Palmer, but it was too late. Abel Palmer’s pulse was gone and he lost his life.

A team of skiers and a snowmobile with a sled went in to help out with the field extrication. Many thanks to everyone that responded.

San Juan County Coroner Keri Metzler could not be reached for comment via telephone following the extrication.

Palmer’s friend told me over the phone that Palmer’s family had been notified that Palmer died in the accident.

To those family and friends of Abel Palmer who are reading this, I hope that the love of those around you will help you get through the days ahead.

Rest in peace, Abel Palmer.

Read the more detailed, technical accident report that was done by CAIC staff by clicking here.

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2 Responses to “2 skiers caught in avalanche by Red Mountain Pass. R.I.P. Abel Palmer”

  1. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for posting this. I’m a close friend of the Palmers and knew Abel his whole life. We’re all just starting to gather our wits, and I think a lot of us still have questions about what happened that day. Would you mind contacting me? Thanks very much.

     

    Christina Callicott

  2. You are welcome, Christina. I will send you an email.

     

    Adam Howell

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