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Gil
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Gil
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PostSat Mar 30, 2024 10:31 pm 
NWAC reports: "Preliminary Report: NWAC is saddened to report an avalanche fatality as a result of a cornice fall on Mount St. Helens. On Saturday, March 30, 2024, a snowboarder summited the peak. While standing near the top, he triggered a cornice and fell to his death. Our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and community. Large cornices still overhang many steep alpine slopes. They often fail much farther back than expected. During these warm, sunny periods, they can become weaker and easier to trigger. NWAC staff will work with the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue to compile a report."

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RumiDude
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PostSat Mar 30, 2024 10:48 pm 
This sounds like the snowboarder fell into the interior. Is this correct? Rumi

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Randito
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PostSat Mar 30, 2024 11:17 pm 
RumiDude wrote:
This sounds like the snowboarder fell into the interior. Is this correct? Rumi
The highest point of the crater rim is on the S side -- it develops giant cornices hanging over the caldera -- its 1500+ drop from the rim before reaching the Crater glacier. There have been several deaths from cornice collapses on MSH in the last several decades. Here is a similar case from 2010 https://www.heraldnet.com/news/mount-st-helens-climbers-death-shows-danger-of-cornices/

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Gil
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PostSat Mar 30, 2024 11:17 pm 
That's all the info NWAC provided.

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Gil
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 8:35 am 
People walk farther out on those cornices than I would.

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altasnob
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 9:08 am 
Is a cornice breaking off an avalanche? I think of an avalanche as a layer of snow sliding on a weaker snow layer below. The general public is deathly afraid of avalanches and the media knows this, so every fatality involving snow is dubbed an "avalanche" to help generate clicks. The problem with dubbing this an avalanche is it will skew Washington's overall avalanche statistics. Cornice failure is a risk regardless of avalanche conditions.

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Randito
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 9:49 am 
altasnob wrote:
Is a cornice breaking off an avalanche?
Yes, absolutely. Think of it as form of a wind slab failure. The risk factors for evaluating the degree risk of a cornice collapse are distinct from evaluating the risk of other types of avalanches, all of which have their own set of factors to evaluate. The challenge often is that either people are unaware of this type of hazard or that they underestimate the size of the cornice and end up walking past the fracture line. On MSH many people are lured onto the cornice as they wish to view the caldera, most of the time it doesn't collapse and the subsequent visitors follow existing tracks out over the void. I know two people that have died in cornice collapse incidents, one person when the summit cornice broke from under their feet on Red Mtn (Snoqualmie Pass) and the other from a cornice failure traversing a ridge line on Lewis Peak off the Mountain Loop. As far as I'm concerned, if the media click baits articles about these sorts of deaths and it helps others avoid "walking on air" I say more power to them.

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altasnob
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 10:29 am 
Randito wrote:
altasnob wrote:
Is a cornice breaking off an avalanche?
Yes, absolutely. Think of it as form of a wind slab failure.
Ok, if you use that definition, then climbers navigating through crevasse on a glacier who die of collapsing ice fall in August now die because of an "avalanche." There is a higher risk of cornice failure during warming temps. Same for ice fall in glaciers. Same for rock fall in snowy, rocky, chutes. Should rock fall that is the result of melting snow be dubbed an "avalanche" too? You could be standing on top of Mt. St Helens during a warming event, which causes the actual rock on the rim under all that snow to shear, which in turn, causes the cornice to collapse, killing someone. Is that an avalanche too? Now we'll hear about how dangerous avalanches are on Mt St Helens, when in reality it is amongst the safest winter climbing/ski routes in the US.
Randito wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, if the media click baits articles about these sorts of deaths and it helps others avoid "walking on air" I say more power to them.
It just perpetuates idiocricy and the overall dumbing down of the human race. I don't think you have to incorrectly label cornice failure as an avalanche to try to get people to realize standing on a big pile of snow hanging off the side of a cliff is dangerous. The media did the same thing on this cornice failure on Mt. Elinor.

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philfort
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 10:59 am 
When I saw the title of this thread I was like "wow, that's really unexpected/unusual", then when I read it was a cornice collapse, it was "ah, that makes sense".

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dallasglass
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 11:08 am 
Hi all, Maybe I can chime in here. You are all asking really great questions, and they show that nature rarely fits into nice neat boxes. At its most basic, we generally define avalanches as snow falling downhill. Indeed the examples of rock and ice can make the lines blurry, and as noted, the media often misconstrues the situation. In the avalanche industry, we generally refer to these as rock fall and ice avalanches. They work on different mechanics and are generally not considered avalanches unless they trigger snow on the slopes below. With our basic definition of snow falling downhill, a cornice is indeed an avalanche on its own. We even have an avalanche forecast problem for it and a classification in our documentation literature. At the end of the day, this was a tragic event, and a person lost his life while recreating in the mountains. We've also all gotten lucky out there. The classification doesn't really matter. We just want to enjoy these wild places and come home safe. While awful, this event certainly helps educate others, and that's a silver lining in a very dark situation. All the best. Dallas Deputy Director: Avalanche Forecaster Northwest Avalanche Center

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dave allyn
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 11:09 am 
Hardly clickbait, or likely to perpetuate idiocracy or the dumbing down of the human race. Per Oxford dictionary (via Google) "a mass of snow rocks and ice falling rapidly down a mountain". Or from Nat Geo "A mass of snow and other material suddenly and quickly tumbling down a mountain.

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RumiDude
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 11:10 am 
I suppose that a cornice breaking off over a drop-off is "technically" an avalanche, but it is not what most people, me being one of those people, would consider an avalanche. In the article Randito posted about the death of Joseph Bohlig at Mt St Helens in 2010 describes it as a result of a cornice collapse rather than an avalanche. Anyway, I was just trying to understand what had happened and cornice collapse into the caldera seems to provide a clearer picture of the accident. Regardless, RIP snowboarder. Rumi

"This is my Indian summer ... I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all."
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Randito
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 11:10 am 
altasnob wrote:
Ok, if you use that definition, then climbers navigating through crevasse on a glacier who die of collapsing ice fall in August now die because of an "avalanche."
H'mm there was an ice fall on the Ingraham several years back that killed 11 people. https://www.historylink.org/file/10796 The term avalanche is broader than a skier triggered snow slide.

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hikingpersonnw
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 12:24 pm 
altasnob wrote:
Is a cornice breaking off an avalanche?
From the National Avalanche Center. Plus, this gets covered in AIARE certification course as well. https://avalanche.org/avalanche-encyclopedia/avalanche/avalanche-type/cornice-fall-avalanche/ Bruce Tremper's books have some good information on them too. If I recall correctly, he was involved in one or two cornice avalanches when testing conditions.

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Randito
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PostSun Mar 31, 2024 2:11 pm 
altasnob wrote:
It just perpetuates idiocricy and the overall dumbing down of the human race.
Isn't the more problematic idiocy people that refuse to change their opinion on a subject -- even when presented with clear information that their opinion is misguided ? https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avalanche#dictionary-entry-1
Quote:
avalanche noun 1: a large mass of snow, ice, earth, rock, or other material in swift motion down a mountainside or over a precipice

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