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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:00 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 2:36 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Bellingham
buckchow wrote:
A message I get from the original post, is to not get overly confident from a perceived "expert halo" (AKA a false sense of security due to experience), which can increase risk tolerance, and lead to a bad scene. Also the bottom line is it's the actions we take, and not any other perspective or attitude in our heads, that determines if we get caught in a slide. Good things to keep in mind and I welcome the reminder, thanks Tex.

TEX wrote:
having more people in the group, more experience... doesnt help at all.

Group size is pretty key: If you're solo, then you are operating with no immediate support should you need it. Having someone else around to dig you out, deal with your compound fractures, or suggest that you not drop into that sketchy loaded terrain trap, certainly can help. If the group size is too large, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage group dynamics, make consensus decisions, avoid skiing on top of each other, find safe spots, etc, and that can lead to avy trouble. I like a group of 3-5 people.

Experience and knowledge definitely helps avoid avalanches, and deal with the aftermath. I certainly put myself in more avy danger when I was starting out, and had no backcountry experience nor education. It also can help if you go with people with experience in medical professions, backcountry rescue, etc if there are pieces to be picked up.


Following up on group dynamics and expert effect--oftentimes, people can be afraid to speak up and express concerns... especially when they think there are more experienced group members. Yesterday, a friend asked me if I thought he should ride a certain sidecountry line that had potential to slide. I told him it was entirely his decision, but I, myself, didn't feel safe riding it. He ended up talking to a few others and eventually deciding to back down. Communication can be lost in group dynamics--speaking your mind is key.

On another note, talking with Jones a few years back, one of his great points was to always, always trust your gut. Even if there are few indicators of avalanche potential, if you feel funny about it, back off. Intuition may not be scientific, but it can be another thing worth thinking about... if you find yourself talking yourself into a line instead of out of it, maybe it's time to back down and ride another day.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:19 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:38 pm
Posts: 313
Location: Fairhaven
I've backed away from that area 2x in my life when there were cameras around and both times I was reminded that it was good to not hang it out there. The consequences of the slide on Monday were much better than the last time I turned around there.

I've found that the more I've educated myself the less I've listened to my gut instinct which has served me well over the years. I try to pay more attention to that now and and factor that into my approach to the mountains.

I think group size and dynamics play a large role in safety in the mountains. The group that I was out with on Monday for the first lap had me possibly a bit overconfident in the conditions. I bowed out after the first lap and they got 3 more in after that. I think large groups are dangerous and really prefer to have 3 people when I'm venturing into questionable terrain. (Of course I'll go with more or less and adjust the objectives accordingly.) That gives enough people to support each other if things go bad and with good group communication and management (and patience) only one should be exposed to reasonable risk at a time. Larger groups make decision making more difficult, it slows down travel, and it leaves more people exposed to danger for greater amounts of time.

Lately, especially when touring with someone for the first time, I'll remind the group that nobody should be uncomfortable with where they are. I have a hard time balancing encouragement for adventure with supporting a decision to turn around. I not only ask that anyone who has a bad feeling say something but I make sure that everyone knows that I'll be disappointed if they don't speak up.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:18 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:44 pm
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Location: The Magic City
Just thought I would use this thread to educate anyone who isn't already aware of these two classics:
Image
Image
Read and reread them and better yet, practice the skills and habits they preach.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:30 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:43 pm
Posts: 51
Location: Fernie, BC
buckchow wrote:
TEX wrote:
Avalanches can happen any time if there is snow on the ground and a slope (steep or not)

I'd offer that slope steepness is of primary concern. We can of course greatly mitigate avy risk by avoiding being on, under, or adjacent to steeper (~30+ degree) slopes. It's pretty much impossible for an avy to occur if nothing in vicinity is over 25 degrees. Utah's current persistent sketchy snowpack inspired me to buy an inclinometer last month and refine my slope angle awareness. There's also an app for that.



Generally the case, but this is from the Canadian avalanche associations Facebook this afternoon, and living in fernie, we generally seem to have at least one cycle per year where extremely low angle slopes release

Quote from CAA Facebook:


"If you're in the BC Interior, our forecasters are warning you to stay out of avalanche terrain. Slopes that have been hanging on by a fingernail are peeling off, on angles as low as twenty degrees. Experienced backcountry users are coming in from the field because they feel they can't adequately manage risk out there. Things are getting crazy out in the snow.". End quote


For background: this cycle is occurring on a layer of SH up to 20cm deep in sheltered areas and sun crusts that built up on S facing slopes over a two week drought/occasional warm temp and fairly HP dominated period. Followed by gradual loading of 40cm over 48hrs of snow falling at -5-8C and a further 10-15 this morning with freezing levels @ 1600m


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:12 pm 
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Location: Los Padres NF
^^*newbie question*

How long would it take a multilayered snowpack described above to settle? Considering the gradual consistent loading continues (which is forecasted) thereafter without any observable faceted features from the HP base to the fresh...

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:24 pm 
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Location: Fernie, BC
There is no definitive answer really. the metamorphosis of the snowpack is constant and has many variables. I'd recommend reading the Bruce tremper book pictured above and observing trends over time in your local snowpack to get a better idea


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:58 pm 
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Posts: 155
Location: bc
Having lived in interior BC and seeing SH layers dominate, that is a scary scenario when the long high pressure system SH is slowly buried, adjusts, then slowly buried again, until it's buried maybe 60-70cm deep and still hasn't shed off any lines... SH can be very spotty depending on wind destroying/feeding it, sun sublimating it, stratus cloud bands forming it at their tops in a tight elevation band etc., and it can take a ton of pressure to get the overlying slab to bond somewhat to it, or hopefully to lay it over while it rounds out. It takes forever to round out, they're really stubborn huge crystals and leave big gaps between them, not like fresh snow. Just got to keep an eye on it as different aspects and elevations will react drastically differently. The whoomphs from an old persistant SH layer seem to be very random if they will occur at all, but when they do they are loud and you may even feel a drop in the snowpack! Also even mundane features near drainage bottom can be sketchy since this is sometimes where the moist cool pool of air flows katabatically down the basins under clear skies and high pressure, building massive SH, watch for terrain traps in the bottom of drainages, even though there are trees everywhere.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:03 pm 
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^damn thanks for the concise breakdown stomppow...good information. I can never get enough avy talk...i always have to keep reminding myself of the obvious red flags that are constantly changing while in the backcountry.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:26 am 
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Location: The Magic City
I guess the "upside" to surface hoar is that if you find it in a pit, you'll usually get a good idea of how it's reacting. Problem is it's not on every slope.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:52 am 
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worth watching the second "further" trailer that bcr posted up. JJ, Xavier and Jimmy Chin getting badly caught out when they thought they were back into safe terrain.


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:52 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:18 pm
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Location: reiter hills
I appreciate the reminders Tex, as I am sure you are concerned with you friends up here... just as I always am when shit is hitting the fan, here, and elsewhere.

But trust that myself and evryone I know is doing some deep thinking on the subject. At this point, we all should know the basics.. observations 101.. the tough part IS human nature.

For me, not as easy as managing sketchy conditions.

Hope we all can take something away from this crappy season for every region.


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:07 am 
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Location: St. Croix Falls, WI
Great topic TEX...Bonez and I had a little bit of a scare early season. This was a wake up call that the smallest aspect, and not paying attention for a single fraction can be dangerous.

This season has given me the heeby jeebies. I've cancelled every trip except for a week to interior BC. Otherwise, I'm going to be fly fishing my ass off.

Stay safe peeps. This season is a goofy one.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanches Death and Exemption
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:35 pm
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Location: Ithaca, NY
Snurfer wrote:
Think long term and take in the broader view as you venture out to revel in the mountains goodness and hopefully you'll all live to be grumpy old meadow skippers :D Be safe friends...


+1! :rock:


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