February 21, 2023
WASHINGTON STATE — Sheriff Mike Morrison reports on February 20th, 2023 Deputies were contacted at the CCSO Leavenworth substation about an avalanche that occurred near Colchuck Lake the previous day. The reporting party, a 53-year-old Maryland man reported the group he was with had attempted to climb Colchuck Peak on Sunday February 19th. There were six climbers in that group and the reporting party had stayed at their base camp that day.
The lead climber triggered an avalanche while attempting to climb the Northeast Couloir of Colchuck Peak. Four of the climbers were swept down the couloir approximately 500 feet. Three of the climbers died as a result of trauma sustained in the fall. They were a 60-year-old female from New York, a 66-year-old male from New Jersey, and a 53-year-old male from Connecticut. The fourth climber, a 56-year-old male form New York sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was able to hike back to base camp with the remaining two. They were a 50-year-old male from New York and a 36-year-old male from New Jersey. When they arrived at camp, they sent the reporting party for help.
When Deputies took the report, A SAR coordinator started gathering resources. A total of 22 rescuers responded to the trailhead to assist with this effort. They were from Chelan County Mounty Rescue, Chelan County Volunteer Search and Rescue and ORV unit, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and Yakima Mountain Rescue. A group of four from Chelan County Mountain Rescue responded to the lake driven part of the way by the CCVSAR ORV unit. They reached the base camp at approximately 1:30 pm. They were able to determine avalanche conditions were too hazardous to continue to the deceased climbers. They escorted the surviving climbers back to the trailhead.
Rescuers were not sent back in to the scene today due to hazardous conditions. CCSO continues to work with Northwest Avalanche Center to assist in a recover plan.
Colchuck Peak sits at the South end of Colchuck Lake approximately 8 miles South of Leavenworth, WA
From the North West Avalanche Center:
Colchuck Peak, WA
A group of six climbers attempted to climb the Northeast Couloir route on Colchuck Peak. At approximately 1:15pm, while ascending the route, the lead climber triggered a slab avalanche that caught and carried four members of the team approximately 500ft to the base of the climb. Three of the climbers suffered fatal traumatic injuries, and a fourth sustained lower extremity injuries. The remaining climbers attempted to evacuate all individuals but were unsuccessful. Subsequent natural avalanches impacted the accident site in the hours following the event. The Chelan County Sheriff’s office was notified of the accident on Monday, February 20th. Chelan County Mountain Rescue traveled to the site and assisted the injured party member to the trailhead.
Recovery efforts will be ongoing this week as weather and avalanche conditions allow. NWAC is working with Chelan County Sheriff’s office, and will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Moon over Colchuck Peak at sunrise, with Colchuck Glacier at left file photo from Creative Commons ShareAlike by: Laurel F
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