Dog rescued after 20-minute avalanche burial on Berthoud Pass in viral video
A successful avalanche rescue of a dog on Berthoud Pass is a reminder of the dangers of the backcountry.
Robert White, who posted the GoPro footage on his YouTube channel, explained in the video description that he and his friend witnessed a large avalanche on Dec. 26 off the Nitro Shoots at Berthoud Pass. A dog from a separate party had wandered off into avalanche terrain and was swept over the cliffs.
The video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G33IR0XjZUE and contains profanity.
The video, which has been making the rounds in the backcountry community, highlights the seriousness of avalanche rescue, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Director Ethan Greene.
“What people really should be trying to do is avoid being caught in avalanches, whether it’s them or their pets,” he said. “This is a good outcome, which is great, but as soon as somebody is buried in the snow their chances of survival drop precipitously, so put your efforts into avoiding avalanches and not count on a successful rescue.”
The video starts 15 minutes into the search for the dog with White expressing wariness about the avalanche danger.
“I think we need to get out of here,” he said in the video. “That dog’s dead. This is why I don’t like dogs in avalanche terrain to begin with.”
White’s friend agrees and goes to retrieve his ski poles. As he moves toward his poles, he shouts out that he has found the dog, whose snout was just barely peeking out of the snow.
Both pull out their shovels and begin unburying the dog.
“He’s alive!” White shouts to the owners, before talking to the dog. “You OK, man? We’re coming, buddy.”
Another stranger joins the duo, and with their help the dog frees itself from the snow looking stunned but OK. The dog runs back to his owner who shouts in joy.
Greene said that when it comes to taking canine companions in the avalanche terrain, it’s a personal choice that should be seriously thought about. He pointed out that while humans can understand the risks in the backcountry and make their own decisions, owners have to be responsible for their pets that don’t get to make those choices.
“It’s certainly possible for a dog or some other animal to trigger an avalanche, so you want to make sure you have good control over your dog or pet so that you can help keep them safe and also make sure they don’t put you into harms way,” he said.
The dog was not wearing an avalanche rescue transceiver, and Greene said CAIC advises against dogs wearing beacons in the backcountry. He explained that, once buried, it’s impossible to tell the different between a pet or human.
“If multiple people get buried in an avalanche, you have no way of knowing if you’re looking for your dog or your friend,” he said. “You want to make sure that — I think most people would want to dig up a human before another animal. Certainly, if a search and rescue team comes in they’re going to try to help whoever, but they’d rather try to save a person before a pet.”
Greene said these types of videos are good for people to understand what a real avalanche rescue is like. He added that anyone in the backcountry should always avoid unnecessary risks and be prepared to conduct an avalanche rescue.
“(Knowing) how to perform an avalanche rescue is really important if you’re going into avalanche terrain,” he said. “You don’t want to be figuring out how to use your equipment or what strategies to use to find somebody or dig them out during a rescue. You want to know that ahead of time.”
Learn more about avalanche danger and preparedness in Colorado at https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/.
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