It's an interesting story for sure. Tragic and very sad, it sounds like they weren't wearing beacons and when he couldn't locate his girlfriend he went for help. Then the guilt tore him up and apparently didn't want to live with his burden so he commits suicide a day or two later? Or that's what I got out of it at least.
I'm not going to condemn them for making their mistakes but man, early season new snow is sketchy! Especially so when that new snow is followed with wind and they were right in the middle of a terrain trap to boot!
Yeah, an unusual, and tragic story. Highlights the physical danger of avalanches, but shows how that shit can really mess with your head, too. Kennedy was a famous world class climber, free climbing things like the Cerro Torre. No disrespect intended, let’s just say that to do stuff like that your mind needs to be wired in a certain way. Also, over the past few weeks he was reflecting on climbing, and all the people he’s lost to it, unsure of what to make of it all. So, it might have been more than just the grief of not being able to find Perkins that led him to kill himself. Tragic.
As for the BC aspect, equally tragic because this was most likely very easily avoidable. Kennedy and Perkins were experienced backcountry skiers/tourers. Perkins was familiar with the terrain. I know there are MANY factors that contribute to slides and related injuries/fatalities in the backcountry. That said, at the heart of a lot of these events I think you find a degree of complacency.....which, IMHO, can be the most dangerous factor. Someone is familiar with the area, has skied a line before, it’s early season snowpack, or they rely on an avy report without taking the time for any field observations. These things lead even very experienced skiers to take unnecessary risks that they know, through their training, that they shouldn’t take. Perkins had a beacon.......but it was in her backpack, off. Seems what they thought they knew about the terrain and the early season snowpack left them with a very false sense of security. No condemnation intended, just notes to myself to keep the risks I’ve been taking the past few years in perspective. Tragic.
I recently read of another fatality in the Montana backcountry, this one at Lone Lake Cirque just outside of Big Sky. Not recent, but another reminder that, while we ultimately embrace risk when heading into the backcountry, some aspects of that risk must be avoided.
Any day in the backcountry puts one at risk, and as I’ve taken on more of those risks, as I get more comfortable with those risks......we’ll, as the season gets under way it’s a timely reminder that one should never feel comfortable in the backcountry.
Given Big Sky’s proximity to Bozeman I’ve added the area to my short list for a weekend trip. Between Lone Peak, the sidecountry just outside the resort, and a lot of fairly easily accessible backcountry it looks like a great option. Hence my interest in/crash course on the area.
Ya, this story has the familiarity heuristic written all over it.
One of my skills that I've developed as a more mature and experienced (23 seasons now) back country skier that I'm most proud of is being more than ok to just pull the chord when things aren't looking or feeling right. I had several days last season where I had to shift gears and bail on the original intended objective or just bail on touring completely.
The thought process and decision making part of back country skiing is almost my favorite part of it all. It really adds a fun (but potentially dangerous)aspect to skiing.
This also might have been a bit of the scarcity heuristic as in there was too much early season stoke to the point that desire clouded judgement. It looks like the male was leading the skin track and he walked right into a trap. I think he cut the slab and his partner, the female was below and got buried by a hard wind slab of snow right in the bottom or close to the bottom of the gully. She was a sitting duck and didn't have much of a chance. He knew he fucked up and was overwhelmed with guilt. It's a sucky situation and everyone makes mistakes so I'm not judging, just making observations and speculating.
The real sucky part is that they could have climbed viewers right of their track through a safe zone of thin snow and rock, made it above the slab that released and made a better assessment before putting themselves in danger. The beacon part is harder to understand, maybe she forgot or they didn't feel that there was much danger?
Either way the take away for me is to not let your guard down and take the safest possible route up when you are feeling things out. The thought of having your heels unlocked with climbing skins on while being caught in a slide terrifies me. It's like having anchors tied to your boots and jumping in the ocean.