Mammoth Mtn - three ski patrol deaths today


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Apr 6, 2006 - 08:53pm PT
Who are the two other unfortunate souls?

Walter Rosenthal was a great soul.

Apr 6, 2006 - 09:04pm PT
ABC in LA has a 5pm TV report. Click on the link in the box on the left.


Trad climber
Denver, CO
Apr 6, 2006 - 09:04pm PT
3 Mammoth Ski Patrollers Killed Clearing Snow

By Amanda Covarrubias, Times Staff Writer
3:07 PM PDT, April 6, 2006

Three members of the Mammoth Mountain ski patrol were killed today while clearing snow on the upper mountain after this week's record snowfall, authorities said.

The accident occurred in the early morning while the three were performing maintenance work, said Shannon Kendall, a spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff's Department, which investigated the accident.

Details of the accident were not available, but authorities said they planned to provide more details in the coming hours.

The accident is the latest chapter in a deadly winter in Mammoth. In late January and early February, five skiers died over a seven-day period.

Mammoth Mountain ski area, about 310 miles north of Los Angeles, announced Tuesday that it had set a seasonal snowfall record with 619 inches having fallen this winter. That includes 50 inches since Saturday.

The old record dates to the winter of 1992-93, when 617 inches fell. That mark almost fell last season when snow accumulations reached 607 inches.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 6, 2006 - 09:14pm PT
That's unhappy news and I'm very sorry to hear some of you have lost friends in this incident. Such vents are extremely dangerous and it might be worthwhile for someone to ask that the company start providing [url="" target="_blank"]SCBA[/url] [url="" target="_blank"]air[/url] [url="" target="_blank"]rigs[/url] for anyone working around them in the future.

Ice climber
The Happies
Apr 6, 2006 - 09:24pm PT
very sorry for you Kath.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 6, 2006 - 09:37pm PT
A great man he was and a great spirit. Not too many like him today. May peace be with you will be sorely missed.

Gym climber
Apr 6, 2006 - 09:59pm PT
That's one of the most beautiful eulogies I've heard.

Bring it home.

Social climber
Apr 6, 2006 - 10:10pm PT
That brought tears to my eyes Kath, its very hard to hear all this. My condolences to his family. My distant memories remember a good man.

Mountain climber
the ANTI-fresno
Apr 6, 2006 - 10:43pm PT
Just wanted to throw this into the mix - both gases that were indicated to be present are heavier than air and would tend to collect in a cavity. i guess it is unknown the proportion or amounts of each?

People who breathe 5% carbon dioxide for more than half an hour show signs of acute hypercapnia, while breathing 7%10% carbon dioxide can produce unconsciousness in only a few minutes.

800 ppm hydrogen sulfide is the lethal concentration for 50% of humans for 5 minutes exposition. Concentrations over 1000 ppm cause immediate collapse with loss of breathing, even after inhalation of a single breath.


Trad climber
on a rock or mountain out west
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 6, 2006 - 11:49pm PT
Kath - that was beautiful. If you want to send an e-mail of support and condolence to them (MMSP), the addy's I'm sure a story like yours could be of comfort to those guys at a time like this.

Trad climber
land of fruits, nuts and flakes
Apr 7, 2006 - 12:25am PT
Kath...... I can sense your sincere cries as if this whole world is a canyon of echos... The sulphur hole may have taken their bodies, but couldn't even come close to taking their souls. Peace be with you and to the surviving families and loved ones.

Apr 7, 2006 - 12:39am PT
Healyje was right, they should have had SCBA air rigs for this operation.

Eagle River, AK
Apr 7, 2006 - 01:00am PT
dave, you guys are heroes to the nth degree. As a "Monday Morning Quarterback" here, I think the powers that be at Mammoth should hang if it is shown they knew or should have known the situation was this hazardous. Sorry about starting the blame so soon but this loss of life just pisses me off! Hang in there buddy.

Cardiff by the sea
Apr 7, 2006 - 01:16am PT
Thanks for the first hand info dave. What a shitty way to end the year. All of MMSP are in my prayers! Like ak said you are a HERO!!!

Mountain climber
Apr 7, 2006 - 01:37am PT for more:

3 Ski Patrollers Dead After Fall Into Volcanic Vent; One Survives
by George Shirk
Three members of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol died Thursday morning, April 6, when they fell 21 feet into a volcanic fumerole in a "snow collapse" near Chair 3/Facelift, ski area officials said.

"Four patrollers were involved and three didn't make it," said ski area communications director Joani Lynch.

The names of the dead were not made available by mid-afternoon, but the Associated Press identified one of the dead as Walter Rosenthal, a researcher for the University of California, Santa Barbara. The AP quoted UCSB spokesman Paul Desruisseaux as confirming Rosenthal as one of the victims.

Rosenthal, who was in his 40s, worked at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Laboratory (SNARL) iMammoth Lakes and was an expert in snow hydrology and remote sensing of snow.

"He apparently jumped in to try to help with the rescue effort of those who were on the patrol and as a result, he died," Desruisseaux said in his interview with the AP.

Rosenthal was also president of the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, said Allan Pietrasanta, a director of the organization. Pietrasanta said Rosenthal and others started the avalanche center in the winter of 2004-05 to release information about snow stability and "increase the public's awareness of snowpack stability."

Mammoth Lakes Mayor Rick Wood, also quoted by the Associated Press, said the police detective working on the case indicated there was a significant amount of gas involved in the accident at the 10,000-foot level of the mountain.

"His impression was that the level of carbon monoxide inside this cavity was extremely high," Wood said.

The actual type of gas was unconfirmed.

Citing the detective, Wood gave an account that differed from the resort's.

Wood said heat from hot rocks below had hollowed out the snow and two ski patrol members fell in. A third patroller attempted a rescue and perished as well, and the fourth was injured, he said.

"This is a steam vent that has been there hundreds of years," Wood said.

Lynch, meanwhile, said the ski area will release details of the accident as they become available and can be confirmed.

The fumarole area is one of the more distincitve areas on Mammoth Mountain and frequently is called "the stink hole." Lynch said the patrollers were fencing off the natural hazard, situated on Christmas Bowl, at 11:29 a.m. "when the snow around the vent collapsed and the patrollers fell 21 feet into the opening.".........

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Apr 7, 2006 - 03:27am PT
I have a couple friends on that patrol that I've fallen out of contact with. I'm going to be watching the reports closely. Dave, thank you for your account.


Apr 7, 2006 - 11:35am PT

Your words for Walter are beautiful!

I have only know Walter for a couple of years. I worked with him on the board of ESAC. He was an inspiration to many and a genuinely wonderful soul. There will be a hollow spot in the Eastern Sierra for a long time to come.

I also know many of the other patrollers involved. My thoughts go out to everyone that is affected by this tragedy.

Dave, thanks for clearing up some of the details. You guys are all heros in my eyes. I wish the outcome would have been different. I know that you guys tried so hard. Stay strong in the days to come!
Sheik aka JD

Trad climber
San Diego
Apr 7, 2006 - 12:28pm PT
Hey D - Jen just left me v-mail. Sorry about the losses. Glad you are ok. Call/e-mail me if you want to talk. I am in J-Tree this weekend, then India for two weeks.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 7, 2006 - 12:56pm PT
Thought and prayers out to the MMSP.

I first met Walter through the snow science course while I was at UCSB. I was amazed at the depth of his knowledge in the mountains and everything related to weather and snow. I think that experience was one of the deciding factors of joining MMSP when I graduated.

I remember one slow midweek day working at the top of chair 3. Another patroller was chilling in the shack not to eager to ski, so Walter and I took nonstop laps all day. I made it to about 50 before I was totally done, but not Walter, he kept going well over 60 laps smiling all the way!

Walter on Avy Control Feb 2000


ralph town
Apr 7, 2006 - 03:34pm PT
sounds like they should have been roped up for the job.
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