Man in serious condition after avalanche
Outdoorsman had his eye on Thunderbird area for years, brother says
A thunderbird tattoo on Seth Anderson’s right arm pays tribute to the swath of open country on Grand Mesa he’d long wanted to ski, according to Anderson’s brother.
It was the same area that nearly took his life Wednesday.
For various reasons, usually a lack of snow at the right time, Dirk Anderson said his brother’s many travels and assorted outdoor conquests never had taken him cross-country skiing below Thunderbird Trailhead on the west side of Grand Mesa.
Dirk earlier this week declined his brother’s invitation to join him Wednesday.
“He’s talked about skiing this for 10 years,” Dirk said. “This had a lot of emotion for him.”
Seth Anderson, 35, was listed by St. Mary’s Hospital officials as being in serious condition Thursday in the hospital’s intensive care unit following Wednesday’s avalanche, which spurred a search effort by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and the rescue of Anderson and his skiing partner for the day who escaped injury, Ann Driggers, 40.
Dirk Anderson on Thursday said his brother suffered two broken legs, and doctors managed to stabilize injuries to his left leg, a broken femur, after six hours of surgery Wednesday night.
Seth underwent a similar procedure on a broken right tibia Thursday afternoon, and doctors estimate he has at least two surgeries to go in what’s shaping up to be a minimum two-week stay at St. Mary’s, Dirk said.
“No major organ damage, no brain injuries,” Dirk said. “He’s going to be OK.”
Dirk said his brother and Driggers were skiing through a clearing when a wall of snow above them collapsed, tossing the duo an estimated 300 to 800 feet.
“He was dragged into several trees,” Dirk said. “He said he was under the snow for a while and just kept swimming toward the top. He kind of got spat out.”
Driggers called for help using her cell phone, and the Sheriff’s Department’s search and rescue team received word at 1:06 p.m., sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said. Driggers had an avalanche beacon, a device that gave searchers latitude-longitude accuracy and sped up the recovery, Benjamin said.
Searchers reached Seth Anderson at 4:15 p.m. Dirk Anderson said his brother called him around 12:30 p.m.
“He just said he was about ready to drop in (Thunderbird area),” he said. “He was excited, and we talked about some Loki stuff.”
The brothers are co-founders of Loki, a local outdoor-apparel company.
Dirk said his brother called him Monday, trying to rope him into Wednesday’s outing. Dirk said he couldn’t get the time off from work and suggested they wait until Sunday to go together.
Seth wasn’t waiting, concerned about avalanche potential over the weekend, Dirk said.
“He was worried about heavy snowfall up there on Friday,” he said.
The brothers’ seasonal outdoor treks have led them to the summit of 47 of Colorado’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet, Dirk said. The family moved to the Grand Valley in 1978, and Seth is a 1993 graduate of Central High School.
“I don’t see him as an adrenaline junkie, and he’s not foolhardy,” Dirk said. “He was out there because he thought it was safe.”
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Thursday warned of continued moderate avalanche risk on Grand Mesa, but officials through midafternoon had no assessment of Wednesday’s avalanche.
Back-country skiers were warned to watch for wet, loose snow exposed to sunny conditions at lower elevations.