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Avalanche victims were raising money for backcountry safety
The Mountain iJournals

Avalanche victims were raising money for backcountry safety

A rescuer searching debris in Saturday's fatal avalanche on Loveland Pass. (Colorado Avalanche Information Center photo)
A rescuer searching debris in Saturday's fatal avalanche on Loveland Pass. (Colorado Avalanche Information Center photo)
All five of the snow riders caught Saturday in a deadly avalanche on Loveland Pass have been identified as Colorado residents who were participating in an event aimed at raising awareness and money for backcountry safety.

Authorities identified the victims Sunday as Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood; Joseph Timlin, 32, of Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lamphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park.

Several of them worked in the ski industry.

The crown face of the avalanche in the Sheep Creek drainage was estimated to run at least 4 feet deep and 500 feet wide, according to a preliminary Colorado Avalanche Information Center report.

Authorities said all of the riders caught in the slide were backcountry experts participating in the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash to raise funds for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

A sixth rider, Jerome Boulay, was also caught and at least partially buried in the avalanche but he survived.

The slide is estimated to have occurred at about 1 p.m. Saturday. Police were notified roughly an hour later.

All of the men were equipped with avalanche beacons and other essential safety gear, authorities said. Four of the deceased were on snowboards designed to split into two for backcountry trekking, and the fifth, Lamphere, was on skis outfitted with climbing skins. Lamphere was an owner in a company, Gecko Skins, that manufactures backcountry climbing skins. Timlin worked as the Rocky Mountain sales manager for various snowboard brands. Gaukel was a climbing guide at Colorado Mountain School.

"The group may have triggered the avalanche from below the start zone, low in the avalanche path. The avalanche released into old snow layers," Colorado Avalanche Information Center's Ethan Greene wrote.

The incident has been widely reported as the deadliest in Colorado since 1962, when seven people were killed in an avalanche that wiped out homes in Twin Lakes on the eastern side of Independence Pass.

Some backcountry experts have said the Loveland Pass group should not have been traveling so close to one another, given the precarious snowpack that has been mounting after several big spring storms.

The deaths raise Colorado's toll of avalanche fatalities to 11 this ski season.

On Thursday 38-year-old Mark McCarron of Westminster, Colo. died in an avalanche south of Vail Pass after he and a friend accidentally triggered it. His friend was also caught in that slide but was able to escape. A third member of that group was on a snowmobile and was not caught in the avalanche.
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