On Dec. 26, Bobby White and Josh Trujillo, two students from the Colorado School of Mines, were skiing in Berthoud Pass, Colorado.
They picked their way carefully through the backcountry, aware that the conditions were ripe for an avalanche. All of a sudden, they spotted a cloud of snow over a thousand feet away.
Trujillo skied toward the aftermath, trying to ascertain whether anyone had been caught in the avalanche.
That’s where he met Scott Shepherd, who reassured him that no human was buried but said they couldn’t find his 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, Apollo.
In a report later filed by Shepherd, he revealed that it was Apollo who was responsible for the avalanche. The dog had run off into a treacherous area, triggered the avalanche and then disappeared, according to ABC News.
“He started moving, and he just looked confused like, ‘Why am I sliding down the hill?’” Shepherd told the outlet. “And then he was just gone.”
The two college students still scanned the 300-yard-by-50-yard debris field for any rogue skiers, but they had little hope of finding the dog alive as the minutes passed.
“Dude, I think we need to get out of here,” White said in a video he later posted to YouTube. “That dog’s dead. This is why I don’t like dogs in avalanche terrain to begin with. We’re all like probing underneath like the worst avalanche terrain at Berthoud right now.”
They wrote the pup off as a lost cause and went to retrieve their ski poles.
At least 20 minutes had passed when by some miracle, Trujillo passed right by the buried dog and spotted his nose just barely sticking out above the snow.
“I found him! I found him, I found him, I found him!” Trujillo shouted.
White, Trujillo and another good Samaritan started digging out the dog, who was completely trapped and unable to move. Once he was freed, he shook himself off and appeared no worse for wear.
WARNING: The following video contains vulgar language that some viewers may find offensive. An edited version appears in the ABC7 video below.
“Witnessed a very large avalanche off of ‘Nitro Chutes’ while skiing more mellow terrain at ‘the roll’ at berthoud pass,” White posted on his video share on YouTube.
“A dog in a separate party of two wondered off a higher traverse into avalanche terrain and was swept over the nitro cliffs. We had nearly given up on the search due to avalanche danger but finally located him after a 20 minute search while going to retrieve ski poles.”
Apollo was checked out by a vet and is doing well, suffering minor injuries to his leg. Shepherd is deeply grateful for the students’ help and said that lessons were learned.
“There’s no way I would have found him in time to get him out there because I was still way up the slope, making my way around,” Shepherd said. “I think they saved his life, and I can never be grateful enough for that.
“I feel like I got kind of got away with something that has such a huge lesson without huge consequences. Like, he could have been lost forever. I thought the best case was that he was seriously injured, but nothing happened at all. It just still blows my mind.
“Everybody knows that [backcountry skiing] is dangerous and everybody takes precautions. But just realizing how one stupid little mistake could have drastic consequences, it kind of drives it home. It doesn’t take much to steer off the course from safety to disaster.”
As for Trujillo, he has some words of advice: “Also, no dogs in the backcountry.”
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