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Avalanche kills hiker in California mountains

By Rebekah Riess, CNN

(CNN) — One hiker was killed and two others injured in a “wet, loose avalanche” on Split Mountain in California, authorities said Friday.

The incident occurred Sunday afternoon near Big Pine, according to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.

The mountain is about 80 miles east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevadas.

Around 4:30 p.m. the sheriff’s office was told about an avalanche at about 12,500 feet on Split Mountain, above Red Lake. Three hikers were caught in the avalanche while coming down the mountain they had climbed.

One of them sustained major injuries and later died, the avalanche center said. The other two had minor to moderate injuries.

The two survivors were evacuated Sunday evening.

Monday morning, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was called in to try to recover the body of the third hiker, but weather was too bad. Instead, rescuers climbed to the site.

The avalanche center said it was “a very small wet, loose avalanche,” large enough to cause all three hikers to fall in steep and rocky terrain.

According to the sheriff’s office, warm temperatures are creating “very unforgiving” snow conditions. “If you slip while on a steep, soft snow slope, you likely will not be able to stop your fall. Furthermore, melting snow can suddenly release rocks on steep slopes, creating an unusually high risk of rockfall,” the release warned.

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