It was another weekend of tragic avalanches in the Cascades. For the second consecutive weekend, an avalanche near Cle Elum claimed the lives of snowmobilers. This time the slide happened in the popular Esmerelda Peak area and claimed the lives of a Bonney Lake Police officer and the son of a longtime City of Bonnie Lake employee.
On Saturday, March 3, 2018, two snowshoers in the McClellan Butte area near Snoqualmie Pass were much luckier than the previous weekend when an avalanche took the lives of two Bellevue area teens who were snowshoeing near Snow Lake.
Video of one of the multiple avalanches reported in the McClellan Butte area was captured by another hiking group that witnessed multiple slides and reported that two snowshoers in front of them on the trail had disappeared.
The group searched for the two snowshoers for about 30 minutes without luck. KCSO Guardian 2 helicopter was called in to assist. The two snowshoers were lucky. Although the slide reportedly swept them down the slope, they managed to walk out of the area unharmed.
Guardian 2 then responded to the remote Esmerelda Peak area – about 20 miles northeast of Cle Elum – to help search for four snowmobilers reportedly swept up by another avalanche. The Kitittas County Sheriff’s Office reported of the four men involved, one made it out with minor injuries, one was airlifted to Harborview with serious injuries and two unfortunately died on the mountain.
Search and rescue crews helped recover the bodies of 47-year old veteran Bonney Lake Police officer James Larsen and 27-year old Zach Roundtree.
Undersheriff Myers, “On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, there are just no words that will answer all the questions the friends and family have about why their loved ones were taken. Only patience, time and support will lessen that pain. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and we hope that some level of peace comes soon. The avalanche danger in many areas is still high, please be aware of the risks, as this marks the fifth avalanche death in the past 7 days.”
King County Search and Rescue PIO Alan LaBissoniere encouraged anyone heading into the backcountry to check NWAC (Northwest Avalanche Center) before going, carry avalanche equipment and tell someone where your going and when you’ll return. If you aren’t back by that time to tell them to call 911. Most importantly LaBissoniere said, “Don’t go alone.”