Monticello man missing after avalanche in La Sal Mountains
Search and rescue crews will soon be onsite in the search for a Monticello man who was apparently caught in a massive avalanche in the La Sal Mountains on January 25.
The slide occurred in a popular site in Dark Canyon Basin about 4:30 p.m. on Friday. A group of eight Monticello-area residents were snowmobiling in the area. The riders report that the man may have not been aware until he was hit by the massive avalanche. It is estimated that the snow is 65 feet deep in areas of the slide zone.
The group frantically searched until dark on Friday evening. They were able to locate the destroyed snowmobile and a damaged helmet, but did not find the missing person.
On Saturday morning, local helicopter crews were joined by crews from Wasatch Backcountry Rescue and the Utah Department of Public Service (DPS) to search from the air. In addition, they attempted to trigger additional avalanches in order to make the area safe for ground crews to begin the search.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s office reports that the DPS helicopter detected a signal that may be from the missing snowmobiler’s beacon. When ground crews are able to safely access the site (estimated by Saturday afternoon), they will begin the search near the beacon signal. The signal was detected near the last known location of the missing person.
Approximately 65 San Juan and Grand county residents are on site for the search and rescue effort, with an estimated three dozen snow machines.
Four people were killed in an avalanche in another area of the La Sal Mountains in February, 2002. That event led to the creation of a local office of the Utah Avalanche Center. The center has been warning of dangerous avalanche conditions after recent storms.