Outdoors

Details on hiker's deadly slide in Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Hikers near Aasgard Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness; Dragontail Peak in background. (Rich Landers)
Hikers near Aasgard Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness; Dragontail Peak in background. (Rich Landers)

HIKING/CLIMBING — More details are available regarding the death of a 21-year-old Eatonville, Wash., woman who slipped and fell into a crevasse Sunday while hiking and glissading in the Aasgard Pass area (elevation 7,841 feet) of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

The woman has been identified as Julia A. Rutherford, 21. She was a junior at Pacific Lutheran University. Most likely she died from hypothermia Sunday after she fell down a snow face and was pinned between snow and rock flooded with icy snowmelt.

“A person can only stand being in that water for about 20 minutes,” Chelan County Sheriff’s Lt. Maria Agnew told the Wenatchee World this morning. “That’s glacial water and it’s really cold.”

Aasgard Pass is in the Cascade Mountains near Leavenworth. It is the shorter, steeper way of two routes up into the Enchantment Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The pass is still snow-covered.

Rutherford was hiking with her boyfriend and two other companions when she slid down the snow face, disappearing over the edge into an opening about 5 feet wide, where water was pouring in from snowmelt.

Read on for other details from the Wenatchee World.

By Dee Riggs

The Wenatchee World, Wash. (MCT)

LEAVENWORTH — A 21-year-old Eatonville woman most likely died from hypothermia Sunday after she fell down a snow face and into running water near Aasgard Pass earlier in the day.

“A person can only stand being in that water for about 20 minutes,” Chelan County Sheriff’s Lt. Maria Agnew said this morning. “That’s glacial water and it’s really cold.”

The body of Julia A. Rutherford was found sometime before 10 p.m. Sunday and flown out of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness by a Whidbey Island Naval Airbase helicopter, deputies said.

Rutherford was glissading — using a controlled slide — on the snow and ice with her boyfriend and two other companions when she disappeared over the edge into an opening about 5 feet wide, Agnew said.

The woman “screamed and her boyfriend went to her aid when he saw a 45-degree cut under the snow pack that led into a crevasse with a large volume of water running under the snow pack,” Agnew said.

By late Sunday afternoon, at least 30 people had taken part in the search. Teams came from Chelan, King and Snohomish counties and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as the helicopter crew from Whidbey.

The woman was found about 40 to 50 feet inside the cravasse, deputies said. She was deceased when a rescuer from the naval helicopter was winched down to her.

Agnew said she did not know what time the woman fell but the call for help was made to the RiverCom dispatch center in Wenatchee about 11 a.m. The call was made by someone, not associated with the hiking party, who climbed Dragontail Peak to get cell service.

This was considered a highly technical rescue due to the extreme hiking conditions and geographical location, according to a press release.

Aasgard Pass, above Colchuck Lake, is one of two main routes into the Enchantment Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Deputies said the woman was not hiking on the trail up Aasgard Pass and she was quite a distance from the trail when she fell into the crevasse.

Agnew did not know if there is more snow than usual on Aasgaard Pass at this time but forest officials earlier this week issued warnings to hikers that, because of the cooler than normal spring and early summer, the snow melt in the backcountry is about a month behind what it normally is.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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