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Avalanche activity strands Glacier National Park cyclists

Posted at 10:08 AM, May 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-28 12:11:17-04

WEST GLACIER – Several bicyclists were trapped along Going-to-the-Sun Road for several hours on Monday following an avalanche.

Glacier National Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley says that significant avalanche activity at Triple Arches trapped 13 cyclists on the far side of avalanche debris for several hours. No injuries were reported.

Park officials had closed the road to pedestrian and cyclist traffic at the Loop earlier Monday after a significant rockslide blocked the road and prevented emergency vehicle travel. Alley notes that many cyclists were already beyond the road closure at that point.

Two Glacier National Park volunteer bike patrol units were also up the road, but were on the west side of the avalanche slide area. They relayed the call for help and stayed in the area for more than four hours until park rangers gained access to the scene.

A park road crew cleared the rock slide and then began cutting a path through the avalanche debris to open the way for the stranded cyclists.

Avalanche forecasters with the U.S. Geological Survey also assessed the avalanche area and slope above. Alley says that the snow stabilized after several hours which allowed crews to work safely.

Conditions often do stabilize after a period of hours, so the park reminds hikers and bikers to carry extra food and clothing in order to be comfortable if stranded because of an emergency or unexpected situation.

Glacier NP Avalanche Bikers
Significant avalanche activity at Triple Arches trapped 13 cyclists on the far side of avalanche debris for several hours on Memorial Day. (courtesy photo)

The operation took approximately eight hours and involved more than a dozen park staff and volunteers, according to Alley.

The cyclists were reportedly cold but in good spirits, and otherwise unharmed.

Visitors photographed cyclists walking over the slide activity to continue their cycling trip up the road but if you do encounter a slide along the road park officials say you should turn around.

Signs of slide activity means that more avalanche activity is possible, as was the case on Monday, according to Alley. People should not attempt to cross an avalanche slide unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“If you see fresh snow on the side of the road or across the road, even if you are excited about your bike trip, turn around,” said Chief Ranger Paul Austin.

“Take responsibility for your safety and though disappointing, plan on heading out another day. Biking along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is not the same as an easy bike trip around town.”

Conditions change rapidly in the park and people visitors should always pack extra food, bring extra clothes, and learn about potential hazards that may exist in the area you plan to visit.

It’s noted that Spring rescue can be particularly difficult because the road is not yet cleared along its entire length.

The final area to be cleared is the “Big Drift” near Logan Pass, a large snowdrift that accumulates all winter and typically is 40 to 80 feet deep.