BAKER CITY, Ore -- Two injured back country skiers who survived a deadly avalanche in northeastern Oregon were taken to the hospital late Wednesday, after an all-day rescue effort.
Rescuers were able to get the man and woman who both suffered broken legs off a steep slope where they'd spent the night, according to Baker County Undersheriff Warren Thompson. Then, a snowcat and a snowmobile were used to get them to a National Guard helicopter which flew them the rest of the way to safety.
Thompson said it's unknown when it'll be safe enough to retrieve the bodies of those killed Tuesday.
The skiers were part of an 8-person guided back country tour in the south Wallowa Mountains when they were caught in an avalanche around noon Tuesday, according to Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick.
Photos: Rescue effort
Two other skiers were killed in the avalanche and two seriously injured. The group was from the Seattle area but names have not yet been released.
The area where the avalanche occurred is called Little Eagle Meadows, about 10 miles northwest of the town of Halfway. Eight people were skiing together when the avalanche hit and the three uninjured skiers were already taken out by snowcat.
Southwick knew of no avalanche warning for the area where the fatal accident happened. He said the temperature was around freezing, and that's much warmer than it had been.
Connelly Brown, the owner of Wallowa Alpine Huts, said the skiing trip was organized by his Joseph-based company. He said a guide contacted him by cellphone after the avalanche hit.
Guided back country trip
The skiers were on a guided five-day, four-night trip. The avalanche came down on the third day of the trip, Brown said. Later that night, as on previous nights, the group planned to sleep at the Schneider Cabin, a historic miners' log cabin on the south side of Cornucopia Peak.
Brown said the clients and the guides were all "fit, proficient downhill skiers." The guides were certified by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and trained by the American Mountain Guide Association, he said.
"From the description, it sounded like they were traveling and the avalanche came from above and caught them by surprise," Brown said.
The avalanche occurred in the southern part of the Wallowa Mountains, near the Idaho border. The Wallowas are known as the "Alps of Oregon." With their rocky peaks and deep ravines, the mountains are popular with back-country skiers, hikers and horseback riders.