Oct. 13—At first, Elizabeth Kronz felt the snow slipping out from under her feet as she and her partner hiked back to their car from the popular Crow Pass public-use cabin near Girdwood on a recent afternoon. Then she realized that larger forces were shuttling her down the slope.
Within seconds, she felt the weight of the snow as it compacted on all sides of her.
“From my perspective, when I stopped, I was completely covered,” she said. “I had to be 100% buried.”
From just about 10 paces ahead of her, Wade Watkins watched as she was swept away by an avalanche last Wednesday afternoon, stopping just a short distance away from a drop down a large, rocky cliffside.
The couple, both 27, had set out the previous afternoon for the cabin and planned to use the getaway as a final celebration of the season, Watkins said. They knew there was some snow in the area and solicited advice on social media about the conditions, but decided the hike sounded doable.
The Crow Pass Trail is a popular backpacking trail out of Girdwood that follows part of the historic Iditarod supply route. The scenic A-frame cabin is about 3 miles and 2,080 feet of elevation gain into the hike. The structure sits in front of a lake and is just a short walk from Raven Glacier.
Neither Kronz nor Watkins had any winter hiking experience or avalanche training, but they didn’t think it was necessary since it was only early October.
Avalanche season arrived earlier than it has in recent years, an official from the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center said.
For the first mile, the hike was fine and the trail was clear, Watkins said.
Soon the trail became more challenging, with snow that was thigh-deep and at times came up to their waist, they said. There was still a clear path visible from another set of hikers, and Watkins said they saw skiers in the distance, so they decided to trudge on.
They reached the cabin without any real issues, but snow began to fall steadily that evening, Watkins said. Conditions intensified around midnight, and the wind whipped the sides of the cabin through the night, Kronz said.
<button class="link rapid-noclick-resp caas-button collapse-button" aria-label="" title="" data-ylk="elm:…….