A French heliskier who survived what has been called an avalanche or a cornice collapse this month near Haines tells the Chilkat Valley News the fall of hundreds of feet down a near-vertical slope was like being in a washing machine. Cedric Bernardini suffered a fractured hip and broken nose in the slide that killed a guide and hurt two others in the group of five.
As the group chatted and donned their gear, guide (Tom) Wayes moved along the ridge toward the top of the run, slightly away from the group. The beginning of the run was a narrow chute, about the width of three pairs of skis.
“We were on the ridge. (Wayes) was starting to go toward where we had to go down, and I was taking pictures and we were just talking – (Wayes) was assessing the run we were going to do – and then the whole ridge collapsed,” Bernardini said. “There was a big ‘whomp’ just before it happened. We heard a big fracture, and then ‘boom.’”
A block of snow about 40 feet long and as wide as the ridge collapsed from under everyone except Wayes, sending the four skiers tumbling down a sheer cliff off the northern side of the mountain. “I remember struggling, trying to stay on, to not fall. And I think that made it worse at some point,” Bernardini said.
Bernardini said he was satisfied with the safety precautions taken by the guide and skiers that day. Read more at Chilkat Valley News.