I just did my avy 1 in Silverton CO this past December. I learned a lot and i'm still reading all the avy books recommended in the class. How long did you guys feel comfortable going out in the back country with out any avalanche savy people with you? I do not have any experienced friends to go out with so I'm only equipped with the knowledge I learned from he avy 1 class.
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:22 pm Posts: 684 Location: Durango, CO
You shouldn't take it as most people take x amount of times to get comfortable out there. Every day is a learning experience. Everyone is different, and everyone has different levels of what they are comfortable with in terms of risk, assessment of terrain, and riding ability. You will find that there are many more things then analyzing snow out there, that is the easy part (relatively). I find the human factor is the hardest thing out there to deal with. Egos and moods play a large part, and you have to keep it in check. I try and focus on this as much as possible as I think it is the biggest unknown. When you look at a line that is the best you have ever seen and have to decide to back away, that is the difficult part. And it only gets more difficult as you get more experience, as you probably have a lot of positive experiences prior.
You will also get more comfortable in certain types of terrain after experience. The first year I split, I rarely ventured into the alpine because I was unsure of it. But I still had a lot of fun finding below treeline terrain. Now I have more experience to make the call to get up into the alpine when I feel it is right. That took stepping out of the comfort zone a bit and evaluating terrain more stringently and travelling smarter.
My advice is to take it day by day, start small, dig a lot of pits, try and study as much as you can with avalanche forecasts, books, etc. You will continually learn new things. Learn to read terrain and learn to minimize your risk. You will make mistakes out there, but learn where you can and where mistakes can't happen.
It is good you all are on the same experience level, it will let you learn together. Open dialogue is good for learning as well, so always keep it open. Learn to read how to travel up first, becuase that is where you are most exposed in most cases. Also, if you are out with someone more experienced, don't just blindly follow, make your own decisions at all times. Ask them questions as much as you can to pick their brain. You will step out of your comfort zone a bit at times, but go at your own pace and don't feel you need to rush anything.
It really just takes time going out and getting experience. You should never be "comfortable" in regards to riding terrain. There are so many factors and things change all the time. Especially if you are in the San Juans, these mountains need to be seriously respected.