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Avalanche on Going-to-the-Sun Road traps bikers

Glacier National Park
Posted at 5:33 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 19:33:22-04

GREAT FALLS — On Thursday, May 13, at about 6:30 pm, Glacier National Park rangers responded to a report of three bikers who were trapped behind an avalanche near Triple Arches on Going-to-the-Sun Road, according to a news release from park officials.

Three bikers - a husband and wife along with a friend - traveling up the road encountered an avalanche across the road, turned around, and started back down. Soon after, they encountered a second avalanche in progress. The wife was ahead of her husband and friend and heard the avalanche. She warned her husband and friend to stop. The avalanche came down between them, trapping the woman’s husband and friend on the uphill side.

The wife biked down to call for help. A ranger arrived at the site of the avalanche around 7:30 pm.

"The sudden onset of sunny and warm weather on Thursday afternoon, combined with recent new snow from the previous weekend, created unstable surface snow conditions," said USGS scientist Erich Peitzsch. "These conditions resulted in a wet, loose avalanche originating above the road in Triple Arches that deposited debris on the road."

Park officials determined that they would wait until the sun was off the slope above, decreasing the chances for further slides, before starting rescue attempts.

Rescue began around 9:30 pm. Rangers belayed across the avalanche chute and belayed the bikers individually back across the chute. No injuries were sustained by the bikers; all three are from Bigfork.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently closed to vehicles at Avalanche Creek until the road opens to Logan Pass for the season. Due to continued avalanche conditions, hiker/biker access is currently not permitted past the Loop. Check the park website for updates.

Park officials remind visitors that snow can avalanche above Going-to-the-Sun Road in active avalanche terrain that often cannot be seen from the road. Avalanches are more likely to occur before or after sunny/warm weather, rainstorms, or snowstorms. Visitors are encouraged to start and finish their trip before the warmest part of the day. Do not stop under gullies or snowfields and turn around if there is a rapid increase in temperature.