Teen hiker has miraculous escape after being swept 40ft by avalanche

An avalanche
(Image credit: Gwendal Le Bourvellec / EyeEm)

A 19-year-old hiker had a lucky escape after he accidentally triggered an avalanche while walking near Colorado, and was swept away at least 40ft.

As OutThereColorado reports, the young man was hiking the Mount Flora Trail – a moderately challenging route near Idaho Springs, which is also a popular area for cross-country skiing. He got into trouble after wandering off-trail into deep snow.

"He triggered an avalanche and was caught and carried at least 40 feet," rescuers explained, "He then hiked downhill, towards the highway. Just before 4pm he finally realized he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the highway and called for help."

He was found by emergency service at around 6pm, and provided with snowshoes so he could walk out alone.

Avalanche triggers

Avalanches (masses of snow, rocks, and ice sliding down mountains at high speeds) are an inherent risk to many winter sports, including hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, but there are steps you can take to help avoid accidents. Avalanches often happen after heavy snowfall, and can be caused by the sheer gradient of a mountain or an earthquake, but the biggest cause is human activity.

The risk of an avalanche is higher if the weather has been unstable recently, with rapid changes in temperature. High winds are also a risk factor. If you can see evidence of previous slides, this is a sign that more may happen in future.

Watch out for warning signs like cracks appearing in the snow underfoot, and listen out for a cracking or 'whumphing' sound from inside the snow, which indicates that it's starting to move. For more advice, see our guide avalanche safety: an introduction to the risks and warning signs of snow slides.

"We would like to remind our readers that avalanche awareness and safety is not only for skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers." said Grand Country Search and Rescue in a Facebook post.

"Hikers and snowshoers are also susceptible to being caught, injured or killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And we’ll say it again – being prepared with emergency gear and extra clothing could save your life in the event of a backcountry emergency."

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.