Bodies recovered of avalanche victims from Alaska and Utah

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The bodies of two physicians buried by an avalanche while hiking over the weekend in Big Cottonwood Canyon have been recovered. One of the doctors was from Eagle River.

Salt Lake County sheriff's Deputy Peggy Falkner said the men were caught by a 2-mile wide avalanche that was 30 feet deep where it broke away.

The victims were experienced hikers and outdoorsmen.

They were identified as Scott Dull, 39, of Eagle River, an emergency room physician at Providence Alaska Medical Center who was involved with search and rescue; and Martin Gleich, 38, Salt Lake City, a critical care physician for Intermountain Health Care.

The men attended medical school at the University of Washington. Dull graduated in 1992 and Gleich in 1991.

Falkner said the pair had started hiking from the Storm Mountain trailhead at 4 a.m. Saturday, hoping it was cold enough that the avalanche danger would minimal. They had expected to be through by 11 a.m., she said.

It was believed the men triggered the avalanche, but the conditions were created by the recent warm weather with Chinook winds, Falkner said.

The Utah Avalanche Forecast Center had warned Friday of potentially catastrophic avalanches. The center said melt water percolating through snow was producing ''wet slabs and wet sluffs'' and that entire snowpacks were at risk of sliding over rocks.

Neither man was carrying an avalanche beacon.

Deputies were alerted at 5:49 p.m. Saturday when the family of one of the hikers called to report the men overdue.

Searchers spotted the foot of one man sticking out of the snow shortly before 9 p.m., and the body of the other man was found hundreds of yards away by avalanche dogs from Alta resort just before midnight.

Winter avalanches tend to be powdery, and sometimes victims can swim out of them, ''but at this time of year, it's like cement, with huge chunks of snow -- boulder size and bigger,'' Falkner said.

Six people have died in avalanches in Utah since December, equaling the number recorded in 1998-1999, which was the most since 1951.

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