Chugach avalanche kills Valdez, Alaska, heli-ski guide

Few details are available so far about the 16th avalanche fatality in the United States this winter. Michael Hamilton, 46, died Monday after triggering a slide on a northwest aspect of the Pencil Glacier in Alaska’s Chugach Range.

Mike Hamilton, a guide with Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, died after being caught in an avalanche this week and being swept down a steep face and over a cliff. He is survived by his wife, Sunny. [Photo] Courtesy Jamie Carter

A report from Alaska State Troopers says Hamilton, who worked for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, was scouting a line for clients when he triggered the avalanche, which carried him 1,500 feet down the steep face and over a cliff. Hamilton deployed his airbag, but he was unconscious when members of his group reached him. He died after being flown to Valdez for advanced medical care.

The Alaska Avalanche Information Center reported that Hamilton triggered a storm slab on a suspected weak layer of near-surface facets. The center didn’t publish a report for Monday, but it rated avalanche danger as considerable at all elevations Friday, saying that the spring shed cycle had been “kicked into full gear.”

“Condolences go out to the family and friends of a Local Valdez Legend that passed away on the twenty fifth of April in the Chugach mountains,” the center wrote in its Friday forecast. “His passing has left a huge hole in the community, he will not be forgotten.”

A GoFundMe page says Hamilton’s service will be held May 1. As of 4 p.m. April 29, the crowdfunding effort had raised $179,000 of its $250,000 goal.

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