A skier has said he's very ashamed of himself after leading a friend into the backcountry without proper equipment, and ending up stranded at the bottom of Granite Canyon at midnight in sub-zero conditions.
Elliot Lombardo from Salt Lake City was skiing with his friend Marcos Hernandez on 27 January, when he decided they should leave the safety Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in search of fresh powder.
There were avalanche warnings in place, and neither of the men was carrying safety equipment such as beacons, shovels, or a probe. Nor had they had any avalanche training, but Lombardo was confident he knew the area, and it would be fine. He later explained that he'd intended to lead Hernandez to shallower slopes that would be less prone to natural avalanches.
As local news site Jackson Hole News & Guide explains. Lombardo took a wrong turn out of the resort, and instead ended up leading Hernandez into Granite Canyon.
“They had powder fever and saw a low-angle field of powder and just skied it and got sucked into Granite,” said Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation (TCSAR) communications director, Matt Hansen.
When night fell and the pair failed to return as planned, their friends called emergency services, worried that they may have been caught in an avalanche. In fact, the pair were wading through feet of snow at the bottom of the canyon, with only one working phone and no satellite communicator.
After five hours of trudging uphill, they managed to get a call out, which rescuers used to narrow down their location. They then stayed put and waited, starting to feel the effects of hypothermia and frostbite; they only had base layers on underneath their ski jackets and ski pants.
Rescuers skied down, and asked Lombardo and Hernandez to hike up a hill to avoid putting the crew in danger. Once there, the pair were warmed up in preparation for a hike back up to a tram.
“We’re doing exactly what TCSAR says because they know exactly what to do – and we’re a couple of dumbasses right now,” Lombardo recalled later. “If you’re not fully prepared it can be game over,” he said. “Overconfidence has resulted in many deaths.”
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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.