Rob Yates missing, feared dead in latest Colorado avalanche

Earlier this week, we told you about an avalanche near Conejos Peak that killed a backcountry skier -- the seventh avalanche fatality in Colorado this season.

Those close to Montezuma County's Rob Yates are hoping against hope that he won't be the eighth. But Yates remains missing after being swept up in an avalanche on Wednesday, and a rescue operation has been suspended because the risk of triggering another slide is too high at this writing. See photos, video and details below.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center preliminary report on the incident, the avalanche took place at about 1 p.m. on March 5 on Sharkstooth Peak in the La Plata Mountains, not far from Durango.

Here's a video of the area that captures its stark beauty....

...followed by an avalanche center photo after the slide. Like those that follow, it features CAIC text:

Yates was among five snowmobilers on an outing in the Bear Creek drainage near the peak; the Durango Herald names his companions as Chris Sharp, Bryce Rogers, Rodney Rule and Rod Oliver.

During the outing, Yates was caught in the avalanche, and afterward, his companions were able to locate his helmet and snowmobile. But Yates couldn't be found, and search teams featuring rescue dogs didn't have any luck, either.

The CAIC notes difficulties caused by "the weather forecast, avalanche hazard, and the remote and rough nature of the area." As such, the search was called off yesterday, at least for the time being.

"We're officially calling it a recovery now," Montezuma County Undersheriff Lynda Carter told the Herald last night. "If there was a chance he was still alive, we'd be moving heaven and Earth, but it's just too dangerous to go up there for a recovery."

Our best hopes to Yates's friends, family and loved ones.

Look below to see more photos from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, an indispensable organization that's currently the focus of a fundraiser by a group called Friends of CAIC. To help, click here.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa March 5: "Avalanche near Conejos Peak kills backcountry skier, seventh Colorado fatality this season."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts