Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:20 pm Post subject: No powder run is worth dying for...
Of course no powder run or sick line is worth dying for, everybody here knows this, and maybe I'm just selfishly seeking some kind of catharsis, but this morning I'm feeling like I want to remind all'a y'all to be careful out there.
Yesterday we lost an old friend in Sawmill Canyon, a usually OB area between the east and west "resorts" at Mountain High, near Wrightwood, in So Cal. As many of you know, my wife Laurie was a patroller at Mountain High when we met, and I spent a lot of time there when my oldest son Neil was growing up. Here is a photo of Neil in Sawmill, taken in the mid-90s, he was 10, I think.
We always knew Sawmill was a major terrain trap. The whole canyon dumps into a narrow gully, from the top nearly all the way out. It's supposed to be a closed area, but enforcement through the years has been as inconsistent as So Cal powder, and the dirty little secret among a handful of veteran patrollers and a few of their friends is that we would go in there when we judged it relatively safe. It was just too good. And with a high speed lift at the bottom, it was kind of a personal, untracked powder paradise. Especially if one was connected enough to the powers that be for them to look the other way, or cover your ass. It's an old story at a lot of ski areas.
Anyway, I haven't skied there in a decade, but I had heard things were getting out of hand in the Mill. We knew it was just a matter of time, but we always thought when tragedy struck, it would be some skater-boarder cotton hoodie cloaked kooks, not as my old friend Mike Elliot put it on the phone last night, "not one of the boys."
Keith and Darren Coffey were both "one of the boys." Knowledgeable, veteran patrollers, local firemen and EMTs, the Coffey brothers were always fun to ski with and to be around. When Keith wanted to learn to tele, I gave him my original purple cuffed Terminators, even though I kinda wanted to keep 'em in the gear archive. He was a bro, and someone to admire in many ways. He and Darren would always be first to volunteer to go out on dicey search and rescues, and their enthusiasm for skiing kept the stoke going for all of "the boys." So many stories.
Yesterday, the Sawmill powder siren song must have proven to be too strong for some of the boys. I haven't been able to sort out and keep track of all that went on there with that super-sketch snowpack, but it sounds like Darren Coffey was with the young guy who was the patrol director there last year, and one or two others, when he dropped into Sawmill for the last time. It was beyond heartbreaking for me last night to see news video of a grim-faced Keith in his Wrightwood fire get-up, lacing his boots and heading out to look for his buried, dead brother.
MAN that SUCKED.
As of this morning, Darren's body remains unrecovered.
I started a thread about this last night, then decided I really didn't want to talk about it and deleted what I wrote. This morning I woke up feeling like I just wanted to share my thoughts in hope that y'all might benefit from the reminder, no powder run or sick line is worth dying for, no matter how long it's been, or how much ya might wanna do it, be careful out there and live to ski... live to ski... live to ski... live to ski another day.
Joined: 27 Dec 2004 Posts: 2108 Location: centered, I hope.
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:30 pm Post subject:
Mitch that's very sad news and I'm sorry for your loss. Even the best of "the boys" and girls out there sometimes miss something and everything goes kaflooey.
thanks for your words and thoughts, sometimes it helps not only the one writing them to heal, but also builds upon a dialog we all need to have, if only just to keep awareness and vigilance at what we do at a high.
Thank you. And again, sorry to hear about that. _________________ Liberte de calcaneus!
Joined: 30 Mar 2005 Posts: 5410 Location: Between Sea and Sky
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:18 pm Post subject:
Wow, my thoughts go out to you. Thanks for yet another eye-opener... while sad, the warnings and reminders can be the best preventative action. Thanks for sharing in this painful time for you. _________________ "It's a strange world made up of extreme horizontal and vertical planes. Where you find diagonal, you find skiing."
Joined: 21 Nov 2005 Posts: 472 Location: Marina del Rey, CA
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:59 pm Post subject:
MItch, Sorry to hear this. I saw the news reports starting last night (I'm in LA), but they were somewhat confused as to who was where, who was missing, etc. and even today they are still a bit sketchy. According to the LA Times they have found your friend and a third person who also was killed in another avalanche in the same area.
I ski at Baldy every once in a while (at the resort, not b/c) and find it hard to imagine enough snow there to avalanche, but just goes to show it can happen.
Joined: 04 Mar 2006 Posts: 1994 Location: Moscow Mountain, PNW
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:10 pm Post subject:
Condolences, Mitch - thanks for the retrospective and the fact that you decided to write, instead of skipping it. It's easy to skip, wondering, really - why, what for....? These are good reminders for us out here in the middle of winter, always only a few degrees separated from the same circumstances and characters. Ski to live!
Joined: 15 Dec 2004 Posts: 54 Location: California
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:32 pm Post subject:
condolences to the family, and friends. I used to ski MH quite a bit, and as a previous poster said, never thought SoCal would get enough snow for avy conditions. _________________ at both ends of the social spectrum there lies a leisure class
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 7107 Location: 5 Miles North of Boston
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:04 pm Post subject:
Yeah, even from afar it seems like a particularly brutal year for avy's and injuries. I can't imagine something like this happening to a friend or acquaintance. Be careful out there everyone. Rest in Peace Darren.
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 2163 Location: Denver....
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:06 pm Post subject:
Awww no no no. That's just not right. That's just terrible news. I'm so sorry for your loss Mitch, and the family's loss, and the friends loss, and all of us for losing anyone of our skiing family. That is just aweful. _________________ Napoleon, don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day.
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