Avalanche accident in Kackar Mountains, Turkey


"We climbed to a peak of about 2800 m in the Kackar Mountains at Yayalar near Yusufeli in Artvin Province in eastern Turkey about 30 km from the Black Sea on March 4, 2014. Already during the ascent there was a warming, which we registered in the group, but did not evaluate in its consequence. After a short rest on the summit, we descended and skied the first 400 meters of altitude through partly wind-blown, but powdery snow. At the end of the first slope we reached a narrow ridge that ran in a south/north direction. Here the snow was already heavily soaked. To the right and left of the ridge were slopes. The eastern slope on the right was practically free of trees, with a slope of almost 30 degrees in the upper part, and much flatter in the lower part. It ended in a river valley, the bottom of which was about 250 vertical meters below us. The left, western slope was less steep. There were single trees there and it ended in a gully about 70 vertical meters below us.

The group was riding or standing on the back, almost as if strung on a string of pearls. I stood in third last position to look at the further downhill possibility. A colleague passed me on the right (east) and swung off about 8 meters away from me. Through this swing he triggered the avalanche. A crack came hurtling toward me, ran between my leg, and widened rapidly. I briefly felt as if I were standing over a crevasse with my legs straddled. Within a short time, my right leg was about 80 cm lower, so I fell. Then there was no more grip. I immediately released the ABS backpack. The first chamber filled immediately, the second only a little later, because I was lying sideways on it. I slid down about 300 meters and about 100 vertical meters with the upper part of the avalanche. Estimated duration (very subjective): about 30 seconds. Twice the avalanche came to a brief stop, leaving me covered with snow from sliding sideways. As soon as the entire avalanche started sliding again, I came all the way back to the surface. Fortunately, the slope was virtually clear of rocks and trees, so I didn't sustain any injuries aside from minor bruises. I was able to free myself. Immediately after the avalanche came to a stop, three comrades drove to me across the unburdened slope. The closeness of these comrades was very important for me, because I was properly shocked by what I had experienced. Below me there was more than 150 cm of compacted wet snow (I was able to put my ski vertically into the snow without it hitting the ground). I lost one ski and one ski pole. We quickly recovered the ski.

It was a traumatic experience for me. I was very lucky that I was in the upper quarter of the avalanche. I am even luckier that I bought an ABS® backpack in December 2012. Without this backpack, the avalanche would not have gone smoothly for me. But I was also unlucky: if I had been standing just 50 cm further to the left (west), I would not have fallen and thus would not have been caught in the avalanche.

The cause of the avalanche was a large amount of drifting snow as well as an underlying "glide layer" that had very little connection to the layer below. The whole thing was favored by the rapid warming during the day."

Martin T., Allensbach