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Snowmobiler killed in avalanche near Mount Baker

A friend remembers snowmobiler Luke Rohde

Lucas K. Rohde, 27, died in an avalanche near Mount Baker on March 10.
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Lucas K. Rohde, 27, died in an avalanche near Mount Baker on March 10.

A semi-professional snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche Saturday near Mount Baker, the fourth winter sports fatality in the Mount Baker wilderness this season, officials said.

Lucas K. Rohde, 27, died in an avalanche, said Dr. Gary Goldfogel, Whatcom County Medical Examiner.

“He caused, then was overcome by, avalanche,” Goldfogel said. “(He was) with other riders who witnessed the event and provided medical aid without success.”

Others in his snowmobiling party weren’t injured, and Rohde’s death was ruled an accident, Goldfogel said.

Rohde, who is from Edmonds, was well-known among search and rescue volunteers in Whatcom County and Western Washington.

Local teams were dispatched to the remote site below the Park Butte fire lookout Saturday, but a helicopter crew from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office arrived faster, said Deputy Mark Jilk of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

“This has been a difficult winter for a lot of families,” said Jilk, who is part of the team that coordinates search and rescue efforts in the Mount Baker backcountry.

A Facebook post at Alpine Assassins, a page dedicated to high mountain snowmobiling, mourned Rohde’s death.



“We lost a #teammate #friend #brother and all around bada** yesterday,” Alpine Assassins wrote. “Luke was the definition of a good person, always doing right and liking and treating everyone kind and always having fun. We will miss the hell out of this man but he will never be forgotten ... . Until we rip again, buddy.”

An official report at the website of the Northwest Avalanche Center in Seattle confirms an avalanche death Saturday at Park Butte, a popular site in the Mount Baker National Recreational Area southwest of Mount Baker.

NWAC forecasters are meteorologists who are U.S. Forest Service employees with offices on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration campus in Seattle.

“A single snowmobiler triggered and was caught, carried and killed in a large slab avalanche on Park Butte in the Mount Baker National Recreation Area,” the NWAC report said. “The avalanche was triggered just below the summit on a northeast aspect near 5,400 feet.”

Rohde was carried some 1,000 feet downhill through a gully and sparse trees, the report said. The avalanche was 200 feet wide and about 4 feet deep, according to NWAC’s report.

Friends and family members wrote condolences on Rohde’s public Facebook page as word of his death spread.

“My heart broke into a million pieces little brother,” wrote Natalie Allen of Edmonds.

“Praying for comfort for your family tonight,” wrote Laura Cathleen Edinger of Edmonds.

Rohde also wrote about snowmobiling for Mountain Sledder magazine and appeared in the 2013 snowmobiling documentary “Counter Balance,” available on iTunes.

His death is at least the seventh reported avalanche death in Washington state in 2018, according to media reports.

In addition, three snowboarders have been reported missing in Whatcom County since November 2017. After extensive search operations, all are presumed dead.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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