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Two brothers escape consecutive Colorado avalanches

Brothers Brian and Alex Holmes of Ophir, Colorado are lucky survivors after setting off two separate avalanches on November 25 during their descent of Yellow Mountain in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

A view of Colorado's southern San Juan Mountains. [Photo] Jimsawthat via Flikr

Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains. [Photo] Jimsawthat

The Telluride Daily Planet reports that the duo were attempting to ski from Trout Lake to Ophir via the Fatwa route down Yellow Mountain when the accident occurred. Younger brother Brian, 26, set off the first avalanche on his descent of Yellow Mountain and was swept out of his brother’s view. Alex, 27, attempted to initiate a search but was caught in a secondary slide.

Afraid of the conditions, Alex abandoned his search for Brian, who he thought to be dead and chose to exit the zone to call for help, reports The Denver Post.

Brian told rescuers that he was only partially buried in the first slide after being carried more than 1,000 feet and was able to dig himself out of the avalanche debris within 15 minutes. Upon initiating a beacon search for Alex without result, he too assumed the slide had been fatal to his brother and chose to ski for help.

“Given the circumstances and nature of the slide, this skier is extremely fortunate,” Deputy Todd Rector of the San Miguel Sheriffs office told the Telluride Daily Planet about the avalanche Brian triggered. Rector and his team received 911 calls from Brian Holmes’s cell phone only to hear heavy breathing on the other end of the line. The rescue team was dispatched to the scene around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and soon after met Brian who successfully made his way back to Ophir after failing to reach rescuers by phone.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s bulletin for the Yellow Mountain Region on November 25 reported low avy danger below treeline and moderate above, with persistent slab hazards remaining the primary safety concern. This report was consistent with Alex’s observation of the 2.5-to-4 foot crown left by his skier-triggered slide.

“Snowfall and southerly winds continue to drift the recent storm snow,” the Colorado Avalanche Center reports in today’s bulletin for the southern San Juan Mountains. Avalanche danger is moderate and persistent slabs remain a threat for the region.

Read more about the Ophir slides in The Denver Post.

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