Avalanche experts warned of more dangerous conditions in the mountains over the weekend, following the death of a 32-year-old Swedish climber who was buried by snow and ice in Hemsedal on Thursday. Fresh snow on steep mountainsides in southern Norway simply isn’t stable.
The weekend could have been “tragic, if folks aren’t careful,” Kjetil Brattlien of Norges Geotekniske Institutt (NGI) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). No further avalanches were reported, but snow remained unstable, according to the experts.
The Swedish victim was climbing with two friends Thursday morning on the southern wall of Skogshorn, east of the popular alpine skiing area at Hemsedal, when he got caught in a massive slide of snow and ice. He was found by rescue crews with dogs from Norske Redningshunder around two hours later and flown to Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo, but he died Thursday night.
His two friends, also Swedish, were physically unharmed but badly shaken by the accident. They were assisted by local health care personnel at the scene.
Local climbing experts had been warning of major avalanche danger in Hemsedal and elsewhere in the mountains all week, and urging skiers not to go off piste. “It’s been windy and temperatures are mild, so the danger is high,” Rune Abrahamsen of Hemsedal Fjellsport told news bureau NTB. “There have been several accidents and there are many places that folks should avoid.” A man in his 40s was also killed in a slide at Hemsedal on the morning of Christmas Eve.
Domaas told NRK that extremely cold weather with little snow before Christmas, followed by fresh snow and rising temperatures has put the danger of avalanches at around 3 on a scale of 1-5, because the snow has no firm foundation. A rating of 3 is considered especially dangerous, not least because the weather itself looks inviting, with patches of blue sky and sunshine during the middle of the day.
“The snow is very unstable, it hasn’t fastened itself yet,” Ulrik Domaas of NGI told NRK. Current conditions can be deceiving, he noted, making it difficult for skiers to understand that they actually are as dangerous as they are right now.
More mild temperatures predicted during the weekend and into the next week can further elevate the avalanche danger. “Temperatures are rising and the snow isn’t stable,” said Brattlien. “Together that means the weekend can be tragic if folks aren’t careful.”
Domaas also urged skiers and especially extreme sports enthusiasts to “think through the consequences and understand what they’re subjecting themselves to,” Domaas said. “If you don’t know much about avalanches, stay away. Don’t go into territory you don’t understand. I would strongly advise against skiing in areas where there’s new snow now.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: