Forums Avy Discussion Forum Tricks of the Trade
Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 22 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #571614
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    I was remembering back when I started to get into the bc, I was a sponge trying to learn all I could. It was a relatively slow transition for me to get to where I could go out and feel totally confident in the decisions I made and the lines I rode. Nowadays it seems people get on the internet see pics of guys hitting lines and think I can do that while completely missing the reality of what one bad decision can have. I thought I would share some of the strategies I use to make my decisions. No classroom education or certificates on my wall just a lot days out, so take it or leave it and add to it if feel.
    -First thing I do is check the avy report. It’s a good resource that’s available so why not use it (that said most days I am on the hill before the avy report is posted). I am a weekend warrior so when I am not riding I am still checking it out to monitor how the snow is setting up. I look for a few things specifically in order of importance.
    1. what were the winds doing (direction, speed) wind can easily take 10 inches and create a 2ft plus deep wind slab.
    2. Any recent activity (natural or human, clear indicator of a weak layer). Here is a pic of some natural activity on our way up to shred a safe zone. Clear indication things are sketch.

    3. What type of snow and how much. Light density snow (snow that is hard to make a snowball with is less cohesive and less likely to form a slab that could propogate, but can create large sluffs that should be considered)
    I’m not sure west coasters would know what I mean?
    This gives me a general idea of the aspects I want to ride.

    Once on the hill I of course choose my route wisely. I think good route finding is the most important and a skill a lot of BC people fail to consider. One thing I did and still do is study skin tracks like crazy. Most zones have a track that can be placed for low avy days and another one for other days. Some perfect examples of this in Utah are in WSF and up Gobblers from MC. I think a well placed skin track is an absolutely beautiful thing. This is a pic of a track across the Nface of Patsy. I almost always put the a similar track in when I am heading to the cirque of Wolverine bowl, however this was during a high/considerable avy day, silly when there is a safe ridge that takes you to the exact same place.

    I also like to poke my pole around a lot handle first to get an idea of the layers this can be done on any slope and should be done on multiple aspects E, W, N etc. I also like to do lots of hasty hand pits. For those who don’t know a hand pit is done when you typically did not get more than a ft and half of snow and I am at least, just gauging how well the snow is bonding to the old snow surface by digging down with my hand isolating a column with either my pole handle or hand and looking at what kind of shear I get by pushing behind the column I am not doing any sort of compression test. I don’t typically dig pits and do compression tests but this can be a great assessment tool and was especially this year in Utah. I think I dug more pits this year than I have in my whole bc experience. A Pic, in my opinion pits and compression tests are super tech and I couldn’t even try to explain it over the internet.

    However I always cringe at the sight of the placement for this pit. This was a considerable/high avy day right off the edge of leeward side of a ridge, right next to a recent crown. Basically a pit on pretty much the hang fire of this slide, I hope they were roped up, different story then. They really didn’t need to dig a pit just examine the bed surface and crown of the one right next to them.

    #616948
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Once up top, If I am travelling a ridge line or know the danger is high I like to kick cornices. On this slope we all knew it was most likely going to slide. It was a high/considerable avy day on an aspect that is notorius for sliding. A couple things always a good idea to rope up although I very guilty of not, and notice the lines right next to the slide path a couple of most likely slackcountry riders from the canyons are very lucky.



    The benefits of patience same bowl different day, live to tell about it.

    In this chute ski cut was not probabable we were going to have to drop the cornice so we cut a piece to affirm what we already thought.

    I also love ski cuts to test a slope. On this day I was not overly concerned about slides, I wouldn’t shred it if I was. This is NFAcing and steep. I was more concerned about sluffage, but I also like ski cuts as a way to get some what intimate with the aspect I am going to ride. On this slope I identified safety spots my first safety spot was the tree/ridge on the lookers left. After I ski cut the top I was looking at a safety spot in the trees down about 200ft to the right. Always have a plan.

    The end result.

    I also alway consider the features I am riding during the crazy avy cycle we had this year it was amazing to see how much of a role terrain played. Tons of slides were observed to take place on convex or roll over features a classic feature for loading.

    This slide took place in a relatively safe zone look at the stress fractures.

    #616949
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    I was going to add one more thing. Some of the decisions I regret the most were when I was in a large group.Luckily they all turned out alright. I typically role solo so I feel somewhat out of place in large groups. Here is a pic of large group headed up the south face to a bowl called WSF. Typically s facing aspect set up faster, however this was on a high/considerable avy day. I would have felt good on this slope however I would have probably chose to use one of ridge feature a few hundred feet to the left and I also would have spread out the group a bit more and respected the slope.

    This party was headed to a bowl called West Silver Fork a good bowl pretty safe mostly E/SE facing and about 34 degrees. Again it was on a high/considerable avy day, couple things I noted about this group that group dynamic may have played a role in is first, as each skier went the got closer to the N Facing aspect that is notorious for sliding and had slid previously.


    Those most concerning part of watching this group was at one time they had about 3 guys on the slope at once. Showing absolutely no respect. This goes from rescuing one to multiple burials a total different scenario.
    Anyways I am done. Like I said take it or leave it or add to it. Hopefully someone will find this useful.

    #616950
    nothingmuch
    358 Posts

    hey bcr, can you make this one sticky?

    #616951
    SanFrantastico
    1514 Posts

    Hey yeah, I agree on the sticky. I think there were a bunch of very good, specific points in there, thanks UTAH. I liked the ski cut example especially and the view of it afterwards. It’s very hard to find info on ski cutting. I would take exception I think with the picture of the person roped up to kick cornices. The guy belaying him should have an anchor because if the cornice broke well back the force on the rope with suck him right over on his skis. Jimw has a cool little gizmo that uses his probe and a cable to cut cornices. Post a link, Jim!

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    #616952
    Stagger Lee
    242 Posts

    @SanFrantastico wrote:

    Jimw has a cool little gizmo that uses his probe and a cable to cut cornices. Post a link, Jim!

    Yes, link/info please!

    😀

    Thanks.

    #616953
    aliasptr
    282 Posts

    Good stuff! More please! I am really interested in terrain management and love seeing pictures of the slopes and maybe even topos to really drive the points home! I’m super new to the backcountry but am also doing my best impersonation of a sponge, reading a couple books and always lurking for good stuff like this!

    It is tough though since all of this is completely dynamic in nature and one decision that is questionable on one day is quite valid another. Just gotta get out more to slowly and safely build my experience base and bridge this huge theoretical vs. practical gap I have!

    Thanks guys!

    #616954
    Colin
    153 Posts

    that last shot…looks like they chucked a few bombs? Homemade or am i missing something here? Guessing they’re line choice was based on skiing near/below where the charges went off…

    #616955
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Those bombs were placed by the local heli-skiing operation that likes to ski that bowl along with others. We call them the Wasatch Powder Turds cause they are primarily heli-skiing shots that are only about a 30 min hike from the road. My point was in that pic was 1.) not good practice to justify riding a slope just because a bomb didn’t move anything and 2.) notice as each skier goes they move a little further from an E facing to NE facing aspect. Subtle changes in aspect can catch people off guard. As my new favorite pic from our recent cycle shows beautifully.

    Aliasptr, I start looking for some good pics that show terrain management. These pics why not the best, show how I used a ski cut to safety spot above the convex and then ski cut to safety spot in the obvious tree in the middle. Mainly to eliminate my sluff and I came in blind to this chute and wasn’t quite sure if it went through.

    Another angle

    #616956
    Snurfer
    1448 Posts

    @UTAH wrote:

    2.) notice as each skier goes they move a little further from an E facing to NE facing aspect. Subtle changes in aspect can catch people off guard. As my new favorite pic from our recent cycle shows beautifully.

    Yep, experienced the slight variation in aspect first hand yesterday…. We were just about to dig a pit on a N aspect when our group experienced a whoomph! and significant under foot collapse. Then just a few degrees to the east we found awesome stability and epic turns.

    Shark Snowsurf Chuna
    Voile V-Tail 170 BC
    Voile One Ninety Five
    Spark R&D Arc

    #616957
    Taft
    287 Posts

    I don’t know what you can take away from this one besides keep your head up.

    had some great turns on a south aspect line into a protected valley. we had been seeing lots of naturals on NW aspects. found a suspect facet/hoar frost layer down 60 with a CT of 15. backed away from a large non manageable line. cut a good sized slab on a N aspect line. had some more great turns.

    then skinning up a south aspect glade. the leader cut across this convex slope. I got part way out with my head down before the guy behind me gave me the heads up. we stopped and talked about it, decided to go knowing it was suspect. i hit the exact middle of the convexity and she popped.

    70cm crown, slow to propagate, ran slow and did not carry momentum once the slope mellowed out 100 feet down.

    the biggest thing to note is that i was the second person across the slope. and that i was part way out before I became aware of what I was crossing.

    play safe out there.

    #616958
    Colin
    153 Posts

    @UTAH wrote:

    Those bombs were placed by the local heli-skiing operation that likes to ski that bowl along with others. We call them the Wasatch Powder Turds cause they are primarily heli-skiing shots that are only about a 30 min hike from the road. My point was in that pic was 1.) not good practice to justify riding a slope just because a bomb didn’t move anything and 2.) notice as each skier goes they move a little further from an E facing to NE facing aspect. Subtle changes in aspect can catch people off guard. As my new favorite pic from our recent cycle shows beautifully.

    Good point. That’s pretty funny so-called heli terrain is an easy tour in…

    #616959
    Taft
    287 Posts

    this could be dove tailed into the partners thread.

    Listen to your friends. ok some of them are morons and some of them are sacred of their own shadow, but you know the ones I’m talking about.

    the last two slides I have been involved in my partners have called it first. gut instinct. pic above is a prime example. today as well. sluffer pointed and called it. the poacher hit the sweet spot and went for a ride.

    if you trust the people you ride with listen to their gut instinct.

    #616960
    Stagger Lee
    242 Posts

    @Stagger Lee wrote:

    @SanFrantastico wrote:

    Jimw has a cool little gizmo that uses his probe and a cable to cut cornices. Post a link, Jim!

    Yes, link/info please!

    😀

    Thanks.

    Hey SanFran – Would Jim’s tool happen to be the Backcounrty Bomb? http://w w w .backcountrybomb. com/

    Has anyone used one? I’m growing tired of the knotted cord and don’t like stomping cornices when solo.

    @UTAH wrote:

    Those bombs were placed by the local heli-skiing operation that likes to ski that bowl along with others.

    I could be wrong, and you know I despise the whirly turds, but I think that blast came from the UDOT gun near the Wildcat lift at Alta. Then again, it would be hard for that gun to get a shot into that area :scratch:

    #616961
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Your right, I was referring to the other pic of ESF, I just used that pic to reinforce the point. Too bad we didn’t have the “backcountry bomber” for Lake Peak Cooly last winter, you might still have your knife, looks cool.

    #616962
    glasshouse_bc
    31 Posts

    Fantastic thread…….good to hear anecdotes and see photos…..helps a lot.

    Many thanks

    Steve

    #616963
    zenaloha
    3 Posts

    Fantastic post and excellent pictures to illustrate points!

    Not sure I agree with the reasoning of your original point #3 about the type of snow and slab formation. Light density snow may be less cohesive when trying to make snowballs, but Mother Nature is capable of things we are not. If light density snow was less cohesive and thus couldn’t form slabs that propagate, then Utah, Colorado, the Canadian Rockies, and all other places know for their fantastically dry snow would also be known for their remarkably stable snowpacks. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as wind speed and direction have a great effect on slab formation when combined with snow density. Light density snow travels better on the wind and is more capable of being packed into hard slabs than heavy, wet snow. That’s been my experience anyway. Folks agree/disagree?

    Let’s keep the discussion going!

    Aloha

    #616964
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Yeah thanks guys. I was hoping when I posted it up it would spur some discussion. Shit, in this business who cares if you can ride, do you know snow? and do you respect mountains! You would think there would be more discussion in this section of the site. But anyways, good point zenaloha, I love avy talk. Snow density is only one of many factors I consider along with winds, aspects and temp changes to name a few. But I personally have found that snow that falls in that 3-5% density range tends to be less cohesive and less likely to form slabs and especially propogate. But that said winds and temp changes can change things fast, I might hit something in the morning and feel really good about it, but be weary to be off and out from under it 2hrs later. A couple examples this we had just got 12-14 of new relatively light snow, winds were really moving things but in one obvious direction. Ski cut the top of this line a little sluff but thats it so I shredded it no worries a little sluff management and a duck into the bottom trees just to be safe.

    Up and over to the next drainage obvious wind loading so I was kicking some cornices and was able to get a little soft slab. Snow was still light and it pretty much just sluffed out no propogation. Based on that I headed up to the top and onto a slightly different aspect not wind affected same shot and shredded it. Easily avoidable and harmless for the most part.

    I was confident but still played it safe by considering the runnouts like staying out of the gullies down low and paying attention convex features. I also was taking note that the sun was out and things were heating up, winds had been pretty consistent the whole time I was riding so 5 hrs from then and definetly the next day I would have been thinking differently and making different decisions especially considering it was sitting on top of a nice little crust on most aspects.

    Now to contrast that, we had a pretty shitty start to our year this year. Snow came early, then the high pressure and the three c’s; calm, clear, cold which rotted the snowpack. Much of the same weather then a big storm came in warm and dumped lot’s of snow. 4+ feet of one cohesive slab. Unfortunately it was sitting on a foot + of facets. The avy cycle that followed was incredible. I was able to remotely trigger this monster hard slab from 10ft off the ridge. The snow was such a cohesive slab, sitting on such a weak layer it easily propogated across the bowl pretty much going wall to wall.


    But anyways that was kind of my line of thinking. So many factors to consider though. It sure is fun to talk about thanks for the post.

    Edit: I was going to add I think the reason for our semi continental snowpack is more due to the susceptibility of our NW-NE aspects to forming persistent weak layers. A typical snowpack here in the Wasatch is much different then a Colorado or Montana snowpack. Ours is typically a lot more consistent especially on E-S facing aspects. We get the 5% but we also get some wet pacific storms as well all year long.

    #616965
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    @Stagger Lee wrote:

    @Stagger Lee wrote:

    @SanFrantastico wrote:

    Jimw has a cool little gizmo that uses his probe and a cable to cut cornices. Post a link, Jim!

    Yes, link/info please!

    😀

    Thanks.

    Hey SanFran – Would Jim’s tool happen to be the Backcounrty Bomb? http://w w w .backcountrybomb. com/

    Has anyone used one? I’m growing tired of the knotted cord and don’t like stomping cornices when solo.

    Somehow I missed this post. Yeah, that’s it, the Backcountry Bomb. Works great. Though I did have one break last year cutting a cornice that must have had a rock or solid ice embedded in it. But the guy apparently saw my post about it, and a new one showed up in the mail a week or two later. How’s that for customer service!

    The cool thing about the Backcountry Bomb is that it’s designed so that one person can cut the cornice, though it still helps to have another person to help guide the “lassoing” and observe what happens when it drops.

    Good avy discussion here, keep it going.

    #616966
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Yeah I know, I spend way too much time dorking out on snow when I should be spending more time in the Splitboards and Bindings thread telling everyone what to think. But, I like this sorta shit and I don’t care much for southpark humor and sarcasm. I posted this up in conditions thread but I thought I would post it up here too. Thanks much HikeForTurns, hopefully this works.

    I kept the boring digging part in because whehter your digging out a friend or digging a quick pit there really is an art to it that my dumbass took way too long to figure out. That is 1.) start digging downhill from where you want to have your pit or where you probed your partner and 2.) chunk out blocks much like your building a kicker.

    I don’t dig pits too often (except hasty hand pits), I dug this one to see how a known weak layer was reacting to some recent new snow. I think pits are often very tough to read unless you really know what your looking for but in this pit it was pretty easy to use a finger hardness test to identify the weak layer. After isolating the column and getting some reaction I would have probably moved to an ECT, to see what I got on that test.

    All relative, I guess but a nice trick to have in your bag.
    youtube/zLn67Lv6ldQ/youtube

    Edit:I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, frustrating as hell and the music’s all I had. Anyways here’s the link.

Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 22 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.