Photos: Joe Timlin, Rick Gaukel among five victims in deadliest avalanche since 1962

Categories: News

rick gaukel snowboarding photo 205x205.jpg
Big photos below.
On Saturday, the Colorado snowboarding community was still reeling from the avalanche death of Mark McCarron (announced by authorities along with a controversial marijuana reference) when another tragedy struck -- this one with an even greater loss of life. Five people died near Loveland in what is the deadliest Colorado avalanche in more than a half-century. Among the dead was Joe Timlin, organizer of that day's Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering, and Rick Gaukel, one of the state's top snowboarding guides. Photos and details below.

The indispensable Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides the basics about the incident, which took place in the Sheep Creek area near Loveland Pass -- approximate elevation, 12,000 feet. Here's a look at the area, complete with the info center's caption:

loveland avalanche 1.jpg
Colorado Avalanche Information Center
Figure 1: Approximate outline of the avalanche, looking south. Data courtesy Dale Atkins.
What the CAIC terms an "unintentional release" of a slide within old snow overtook a backcountry touring party of six on splitboards and skis; the avalanche may have been triggered "from below the start zone, low in the avalanche pass," the report maintains.

The avalanche's crown face is estimated at four feet in depth and 500 feet wide.

Of the six members of the party, only one made it out alive. The victims have been identified as Timlin, who lived in Gypsum; Gaukel, from Estes Park; Boulder's Ryan Novack; Crested Butte's Ian Lamphere; and Lakewood's Christopher Peters. All of them were in their thirties.

Timlin was the man behind the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry gathering, slated for April 19 and 20. Here's a graphic from its Facebook events page.

rocky mountain high backcountry gathering.jpg
The event was a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

As noted by Westword contributor Colin Bane, writing for ESPN, Timlin worked as a sales manager for assorted snowboard brands in the Rocky Mountain region. Snowboard magazine elaborated with this photo....

joe timlin facebook.jpg
...and this post:
This is a photo that was recently published in our last issue of our dear friend Joe Timlin who died in an avalanche at Loveland Pass yesterday. Joe was a local at @vailmtn at the rep for @jonessnowboards @yes_snowboards @nowbindings. He was an amazing person and a very good friend who will be terribly missed. Our hearts go out to Joe's family and the families of the 4 others that did not make it in yesterday's avalanche. Sad time for Colorado. Please be extra careful in the backcountry!
Understandably, this news shook Timlin's many friends. Here's an excerpt from a post by one of them:
I cried, and mourned a friend and good person and his compatriots. LOVE to all who we lost, those who were with them who had to work thru this, and the families who lost good people. Shit this is horrible, and Joe I respect the hell out of what you were building here. You made the Colorado snowboarding community a much more stoked place from the track you were putting down. You will be missed and honored by all of us whenever we gather and whenever we are out there alone. Be good people. Love.
A reply to this message added some additional perspective. It reads:
at one point or another, all of us have asked ourselves how would we want to die if we had the choice. for those of us who ride, i bet the majority of us share the same answer.

perhaps we can find some solace in the fact that these guys were riding deep snow; doing exactly what they wanted to be doing.

all my love to those that miss, and to those that will be missed.

Continue for more about the victims of the Loveland avalanche, including photos.

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Lets go over this - Massive snowfall in the last few weeks - check.  Spring conditions and various temps that lead to varied snowpack layers - check.  Already HIGH avalanche warnings by the authorities beforehand - check.  A slope that is facing for the most part east which means that it builds up windlips and cornices - check.  Angle of slope over or close to 40 degrees - check.  Above treeline so no natural terrain features to anchor snow - check.  Traveling in a pack rather than spread out thus increasing load weight on already weakend snow - check.  From what I can tell, not walking on a ridge but rather in the path of a known slide zone - check.  From what I gather, they were there to celebrate 420 so their head was most likely not clear.  There are reasons that these guys should not have been where and when and how they were.  I hope others read what I just wrote and learn how to read the terrain and not repeat other peoples mistakes.

Nick McCollum
Nick McCollum

I hope I die doing something that always made me feel alive. R.I.P.

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