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Avalanche claims Nordic skier’s life

Seattle man swept off cliff as ski partner watches



NEWHALEM – Searchers on Thursday recovered the body of a skier who was killed in an avalanche on Mount Shuksan in North Cascades National Park last week.

John Cooper IV, 46, of Seattle, died Wednesday morning after the avalanche swept him off a cliff, causing him to fall more than 2,000 feet, according to Ken Hires, Stehekin District interpreter of North Cascades National Park.

The park boundary is the Okanogan-Whatcom County line.

Cooper had been part of a ski tour heading up the north face of the mountain when the avalanche began, Hires said.

Another skier, identified only as a 37-year-old Seattle man, narrowly avoided being swept away and was able to report the incident at about 10:45 a.m. on his cellphone, Hires said.

Park Ranger Kelly Bush said the men, both experienced backcountry skiers and

mountaineers, had reached about 7,000 feet on one of the mountain’s more difficult routes.

“I would say that it was triggered by the warm temperatures that we’ve been having,” Bush said. “And this time of year, there’s still a lot of winter snow on the mountains.

“Sometimes it can be a hazard when you get a sudden warm-up; it can make the snow prone to sliding.”

She estimated the temperature could have been in the 60s.

“On a snow and ice-covered mountain at that elevation, that is pretty warm,” she said.

Although Cooper’s friend began descending the mountain to look for Cooper, his search was unsuccessful. He began retracing the route back down the mountain until he found a safe area with cellphone reception to call 911.

“They had been longtime friends and for years had done trips together, the two of them,” Bush said. “They were both definitely familiar with the mountain.”

Two climbing rangers searched the area in a helicopter Wednesday and located Cooper’s body at about 3:30 p.m., but were unable to reach him because of the potential unstable snow from warmer weather, Hires said.

With help from the Bellingham Mountain Rescue team, the uninjured skier was able to find his way out of the area Wednesday afternoon.

Bush declined to release the man’s name.

Whatcom County Search and Rescue also responded.



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