Advertisement

'This Is How It Ends': Snowboarder Miraculously Survives Enormous Aussie Avalanche

It's been a treacherous winter in the Australian Alps this year.

Skier deaths, chairlift accidents, lost snowboarders -- these are just some of the incidents which remind us that the Aussie alpine environment can sometimes be just as dangerous as the larger, higher mountains in other countries.

And this week, there has been more high drama.

After wild blizzards added as much as a metre of fresh snow to the high country in Victoria and NSW late last week, avalanches have begun to occur as the snowpack solidifies. and slabs of overhanging snow start to break off ridges.

Early this week, a massive slide tore down Australia's fifth-highest peak, Mt Etheridge, which sits opposite our highest summit, Mt Kosciuszko. A snowboarder was caught in it, and his survival story is remarkable.

Image: Alpine Access Australia

We can't name the snowboarder, who is said to be traumatised, however 10 daily spoke to the man who gave him avalanche training, and who therefore potentially saved his life by giving him crucial back-country survival knowledge.

His name is Dave Herring and he runs Alpine Access Australia. The company runs avalanche training courses, as well as back country tours. Herring has just published the following account of the skier's trip to Mt Etheridge:

"At around 12:30 pm I was buried in at least a class-3 avalanche at Etheridge ridge. I estimate class 3 as there was more than 1000 tonnes of snow in the slide, perhaps many times that.

A close-up of the side of the avalanche, showing just how large the individual chunks of broken snow and ice were. Image: Alpine Access Australia

"My wife and I had already ridden several lines on the face during the morning, performing a hand shear test first up with no signs of instability. After several runs she decided she'd had enough so I began snowshoeing back up the face for one last line.

"I had chosen a small rock-lined ridge line to follow up that was quite firm and wind-scoured and felt like a safe route. About halfway up there was all of a sudden a thunderous boom and the ENTIRE face top to bottom about 150m-wide began to slide."

Image: Alpine Access Australia

"It happened in a split second. I tried to run to who knows where, but was immediately pulled completely under into darkness and immense pressure.

"I was tumbled several times with snow pushed hard against my face, but was surprisingly completely calm with the realisation that I was about to be buried and this is how it all ends."

As the motion began to slow the weight of the snow began to bear down and there was an eerie silence and with one last tumble I saw the light and I came to rest completely buried in an upright standing position with just my head and one arm above the surface.

A side view of the avalanche. Image: Alpine Access Australia

Yep, you read that right. Somehow the lucky skier ended up upright and only partially buried. He could have been upside-down buried under metres of snow, with no hope of escape. But no. He got lucky.

And as mentioned, he also got smart before the avalanche occurred, because he and his wife carried the right gear.

He used a shovel that he had in his backpack to dig himself out, and he and his wife also had avalanche transceivers -- beacons used to locate buried skiers.

He eventually dug himself out, and all's well that ends well.

Image: Alpine Access Australia.

"I'm currently sitting at home sipping a scotch with my ankle in a moon boot, season over. But ALIVE, and I'm happy to share this story as it's important for people to know."

That was the last line of his account, and you can read his full story here.

The avalanche occurred just to the right of Mt Kosciuszko on this map. Image: Google Maps.