Spackman and a companion were ascending Apocalypse Couloir about 10:30 a.m. on Friday, March 1 to access an adjacent narrow and steep chute on the flank of Prospectors Mountain, which they intended to ski. Approximately 200 feet below the fork of the couloir, Spackman and his partner were impacted by an avalanche that originated further up the slope. Spackman was caught in the slide and it carried him approximately 1000 feet. Spackman’s partner immediately began a search that ultimately led to him to where Spackman laid face down and only partially buried. The skiing partner began CPR to revive his friend and about 15 minutes later used a cell phone to make an emergency call and alert Grand Teton National Park rangers of the situation.
Rangers immediately organized a rescue mission and enlisted the assistance of the Teton County Search and Rescue contract helicopter and members of the county rescue team. A landing zone was established near Sawmill Ponds on the Moose-Wilson Road from where the rescue mission was conducted. Four rangers were flown to the backcountry location, where they landed at 1:15 p.m. near the base of Apocalypse Couloir. In advance of their arrival, Spackman’s partner was able to move his friend to that same location and wait for the helicopter and rescuers.
Spackman’s body was flown from the mountains at 2:30 p.m. and turned over to the Teton County coroner’s office. Spackman’s partner and the rescuers then skied out of the backcountry together, arriving at park headquarters around 4:00 p.m.
This marks the second avalanche fatality in Grand Teton National Park this year. An avalanche on Survey Peak in the northern Teton Range took the life of a skier on January 27.
The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported the avalanche danger as moderate for the morning hours of March 1. A general advisory also stated, “Pockets of wind slab up to 20 inches in depth exist and could be triggered by the weight of a single person in steep avalanche starting zones and cliff areas with fresh deposits of wind drifted snow.” It’s important to note that the avalanche forecast center does not provide reports for extreme terrain.