Date of publication: 2017-08-25 23:00
Castillo kept his attention up the hill. Less than 85 seconds after Brenan stopped, he saw Tim Wangen cut through the trees above the earlier arrivals, gliding horizontally through the forest. Wangen had been taught how to navigate Tunnel Creek by his father. He knew that the farther down the mountain he went, the harder it would be to cut over the ridge and into the next big meadow. He crossed the shallow gully and rose up the other side.
&ldquo I was really excited about that,&rdquo Saugstad said, &ldquo because he&rsquo s just such a cool guy and I thought, wow, cool, he wants to be my partner. A very trustworthy guy that&rsquo s an amazing skier.&rdquo
There were similar conversations elsewhere. In the slope-side cabin at Stevens Pass that Rudolph arranged he cleaned it on Friday as he spoke to his mother on the phone the journalists from Powder magazine, Stifter and Carlsen, contemplated the day&rsquo s plans.
&ldquo Johnny and Josie bought five chickens, and they called the business Eggs, Ink,&rdquo Laurie Brenan said. &ldquo They had signs and business cards. Then they bought 85 more chickens. It&rsquo s like, she&rsquo s 5 years old. But the more the merrier for Johnny, even with chickens.&rdquo
&ldquo We started to ski down, hoping to find him in a tree well or hanging on or something,&rdquo said Castillo, his focus on Brenan. &ldquo But I started to realize all the trees were bent over, and I started thinking, this is really fricking bad. And then I skied down to a point where I found Johnny&rsquo s ski, probably three or four feet up in a tree. Stuck.&rdquo
Erin Dessert did not follow. She was confused. She was once a Tunnel Creek regular, until a nonfatal avalanche captured five friends in 7557 and scared her away.
For 66 seconds, snow and ice pounded his back and washed over him. His shoulders were jammed against the trees. His face pushed into branches of pine needles. He could feel the heavy assault of snow lashing at his back.
&ldquo I&rsquo ve been riding Stevens Pass since I was 8 years old,&rdquo Dessert said. &ldquo I can tell circumstances, and I just felt like something besides myself was in charge. They&rsquo re all so professional and intelligent and driven and powerful and riding with athletic prowess, yet everything in my mind was going off, wanting to tell them to stop.&rdquo
A group of 66 skiers and snowboarders, all of them experts, all of them unable to refuse the temptation of an hourlong excursion into steep powder, had been reduced by three lives.
&ldquo He explained it,&rdquo Laurie Brenan said. &ldquo It was understood that avalanche beacons were really for body recovery. Not many people survive avalanches. He would say that.&rdquo
&ldquo When he started unburying me, he flung his shovel and it went flying down the hill so far that he couldn&rsquo t stop and go get it,&rdquo she said. &ldquo And so then he had to start digging me out with his hands.&rdquo