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Avalanche accident in the Kackar Mountains, Turkey

04.03.2014


"On March 4, 2014, we climbed to a peak of about 2800 m in the Kackar Mountains near Yayalar near Yusufeli in the province of Artvin in eastern Turkey about 30 km from the Black Sea. Already during the ascent there was a warming, which we registered in the group, but did not evaluate in its consequence. After a short rest at the summit we fell off and descended the first almost 400 meters of altitude difference through partly wind-pressed but powdery snow. At the end of the first slope we reached a narrow ridge, which ran in south/north direction. Here the snow was already very wet. Right and left of the ridge were slopes. The right eastern slope was practically treeless, in the upper area almost 30 degrees inclination, in the lower area clearly flatter. It ended in a river valley, the bottom of which was about 250 meters below us. The left, western slope was less steep. There were single trees and it ended in a gully, about 70 meters below us.

The group rode or stood on the ridge, almost lined up like a pearl necklace. I was in the third last position to look at the further descent. A colleague overtook me on the right (east) and swung off about 8 meters from me. By this swing he triggered the avalanche. A crack came towards me at high speed, ran between my leg and widened quickly. For a moment I felt as if I was standing over a crevasse with my legs straddled. Within a short time my right leg stood about 80 cm lower, so that I fell. Then there was no more support. I immediately released the ABS backpack. The first chamber filled up immediately, the second one a little later because I was lying on its side. I slid down about 300 meters and about 100 altitude meters with the upper part of the avalanche. Estimated duration (very subjective): about 30 seconds. Twice the avalanche came to a brief stop, where I was covered by snow sliding sideways. As soon as the whole avalanche started sliding again, I came back to the surface completely. Fortunately, the slope was practically free of rocks and trees, so apart from minor bruises I did not suffer any injuries. I was able to free myself. Immediately after the avalanche came to a halt, three comrades rode over the relieved slope to me. The closeness of these comrades was very important for me, because I was quite shocked by what I had experienced. Below me were more than 150 cm of firmly pressed wet snow (I was able to put my ski vertically into the snow without it hitting the ground). I lost one ski and one ski pole. We found the ski again quickly.

It was a traumatic experience for me. I was very lucky to be in the upper quarter of the avalanche. I'm even luckier that in December 2012 ABS®-backpack. Without this rucksack the avalanche would not have gone smoothly for me. But I was also unlucky: If I had been only 50 cm further to the left (west), I would not have fallen and thus not have been caught in the avalanche.

The cause of the avalanche was a large amount of drift snow and an underlying "sliding bearing layer", which had very little connection to the layer below. The whole thing was favored by the rapid warming during the day."

Martin T., Allensbach