WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A 54-year-old man from West Hartford who died following an avalanche urged surviving climbers to continue on without him to get help following an avalanche in Washington state, according to a final avalanche report.
Seong “Bob” Cho was killed after a Feb. 19 avalanche on Colchuck Peak, alongside 60-year-old Jeannie Lee from New York and 66-year-old Yun Park from New Jersey. Cho’s body was recovered on Feb. 24. Park and Lee’s bodies have yet to be recovered, and are likely buried beneath additional snowfall and avalanches, according to a final report from the Northwest Avalanche Center.
A group of 11 climbers were in the area, but only six attempted to ascend the Northeast Coulier route on Colchuck Peak that day, according to the final report. The others had not felt well and had either turned around or stayed in camp.
The group of six were climbing when Cho’s axe triggered the slab avalanche, according to the report. Cho, along with Lee, Park and a survivor, were caught in it and fell 1,000 feet. The other two were protected from the avalanche by a large rock.
The surviving climber had two injured knees and an ankle injury. Park and Lee likely died from trauma, according to the report. Cho was “severely injured, but conscious and ambulatory” after the avalanche. His cause of death is listed as trauma and a back injury.
Cho was able to move, but told the others to continue without him to get help because he couldn’t walk on his own, according to the report. However, he had died by the time the group was able to come back to try and rescue him the next day.
The avalanche happened at about 1:15 p.m., and the surviving group reached their tents at 8:15 p.m. It took about 12 hours for a climber to travel through the night until they could get help.
The peak is located in the Cascade Mountains and is hard to access in the winter due to deep snow, harsh weather and long approaches, according to the report. There was light snow the morning of the avalanche, which became heavier throughout the day. A winter storm also brought in strong winds.
The route the climbers took “can make even the smallest avalanches deadly” due to terrain traps, according to the report. They were not able to get a daily avalanche report due to how remote the area was.
The group had different experience levels, from novice to advanced. Members of the group have climbed Denali, Mount Adams and Mount Whitney.
The report note that rescue gear wouldn’t have saved the climbers’ lives. The surviving member was the only of the four who wore a helmet.
“While it is not certain how helmets would have influenced the result of this incident, wearing helmets can provide additional protection against traumatic brain injuries,” the report reads.
A GoFundMe for Cho has raised about $21,400 of its $40,000 goal.