Search teams were deployed to trailheads to look for a missing hiker Sunday evening (3-5-16), but the man turned up safely on his own.
In an unrelated incident, a backcountry skier was caught in an avalanche Saturday in one of Sitka’s most popular bowls, and walked out shaken but unharmed.
Gavan Ridge Search
Sitka fire chief Dave Miller says a hiker was reported overdue by his partner a little before 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The pair had become separated on the Gavan Ridge, and the man was no longer responding to text messages.
Miller says that search teams were organized to look for the man, and they had just started up the Gavan trailhead when his partner received a text from the missing man reporting that he was fine, and descending the Cascade Creek valley without a headlamp.
Once he was safely down, the search officially ended. Miller said things were wrapped up by 10:30 p.m.
Mt. Verstovia Avalanche
Another Sitka backcountry skier also returned safely from Mt. Verstovia Sunday, after being caught in an avalanche.
Alex Weissberg told KCAW that he had made one run down the Verstovia bowl on Saturday, and was skinning back up the hill when he noticed a crack open in the snow pack. As the crack widened, Weissberg says he tried to shuffle up the slope and jump to stable snow.
He didn’t make it.
Weissberg says the pack gave way, caught him, and slid about 200 feet down the face of the peak. Although he was briefly buried, Weissberg says a high spot in the terrain pushed him to the surface of the slide. He tried unsuccessfully to grab a tree, but he was torn away from it.
The trip was relatively slow, Weissberg says. No faster than riding a sled he thinks.
Weissberg admits to several mistakes that contributed to his misfortune. He says he shouldn’t have been on the mountain alone; although he’s had avalanche training, he never dug a pit to test the snow; and finally, he was listening to music on his climb back up the mountain, which prevented him from hearing the sound of the settling pack.
Weissberg is a commercial fisherman who grew up in Sitka. On his Facebook post he wrote, “For anyone thinking about skiing on this beautiful day, be careful.”
The National Weather Service reports snowfall at sea level in Sitka of 8-inches during the winter storm at the end of last week. Typically, heavy snowfall at low elevations translates into pack depths of several feet in the alpine above town.