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Old 04-16-2009, 03:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Unreal hiking incident

was just reading this, these guys are really lucky:http://news.aol.com/article/avalanche-survivors/429819?icid=main|aimzones|dl1|link3|Avalanche Survivors

Pics detail where they were taken, where they stopped and where it crowned.
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Old 04-16-2009, 03:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I dont have a ton of knowledge on backcountry hiking but i do remember hearing that thaw/freeze cycles really fuck up the snow and can cause avalanche danger to be much higher...

We've had several Warm/Freezes here in the WA/OR area in the last few weeks, probably not the safest time to go hiking backcountry...
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Old 04-16-2009, 03:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Amazing. Want to hear from the avi experts what these guys did right/wrong.
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Old 04-16-2009, 11:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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can someone tell me what the slope angle and aspect/direction was?
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:53 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arsenic0 View Post
I dont have a ton of knowledge on backcountry hiking but i do remember hearing that thaw/freeze cycles really fuck up the snow and can cause avalanche danger to be much higher...

We've had several Warm/Freezes here in the WA/OR area in the last few weeks, probably not the safest time to go hiking backcountry...
Freeze thaw cycles are actually the most predictable snow conditions around. Doesn't really fuck up the snow. It's all about timing and how cold it gets at night. If you have a hard freeze overnight and a warm day, you can set your watch to the time you need to drop a certain aspect and when to get out. Generally speaking, by 10am on south facing slopes, no later than 1pm on North facing slopes. So start south work your way to the shadier slopes as the day warms up. Aiming for that perfect time to hit the slopes when it's corned up nicely.

In the Oregon/PNW area the times may be a little different. Lower altitude than Colorado/Utah, but the rules are the same. The biggest concern is if you go out and the snow didn't freeze overnight. Then you water permeating the snow pack acting like a lubricant. As the day warms up the snow pack will loose it's cohesiveness quickly and wet slides will happen much earlier in the day. You local avalanche center is the best resource to see what is expected for overnight temps and to make your call if it is worth going out or not.

As far as for what you check for when you are in the field. In firm snow when you walk on it, if you sink in over the tops of your boots, you can grab a clump of snow, squeeze and water comes out, or you start seeing pinwheels rolling down the slope that grow as they go down. It's time to change your aspect to a shadier slope or go home if that is no longer available. Typically by 2pm you should be on a patio drinking beers.

As far as this accident goes. Hard to say if it was a wet slide or more of a mid winter type of slide. The article doesn't really indicate if it was due to the freeze/thaw cycle or if there was new now and wind slabs that formed creating a tender layer. Right now in Colorado, we are transitioning back to a mid winter type of snowpack. Lot's of new snow, wind, creating slabs. In a few days, temps are supposed to warm up and the freeze thaw cycle will happen again. Talk about a mixed bag.

Sorry about the long reply, but hopefully that is good information for those interested.
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Old 04-17-2009, 11:22 AM   #6 (permalink)
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So... Some Avi training and pit digging would have helped these guys determine the safety of the snow layers and terrain they were about to ride was safe?

Its beyond comprehension to me that they would ride BC w/o the benefit and piece of mind of some Avi training, let alone shovels, transceivers etc. Lucky bastards indeed.
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Old 04-17-2009, 12:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Probably. There may have been some overt warning signs that would have let them know it was probably not a good idea. Keep in mind that even the best get caught. It's not an exact science.

The east coast thing probably has something to do with it too. There are very few areas on the east coast that are susceptible to avalanche danger. In Vermont, it's pretty common to go into the backcountry without any avy gear. Sounds crazy, but slides just don't seem to happen there. Mt Washington and the Adirondacks are the only places I can think of off the top of my head that have any real avy danger in the east.

Plenty of people even out west ride in the backcountry without and avy gear or knowledge. Loveland Pass is notrious for this, and at times there can be a ton of people at Berthoud without gear. Sad to say mostly snowboarders. Though because of them I was able to leap frog over about 20 people and get a ride. Since the people in the car had a beacon on receive, rolled down the window and said "no beacon, no ride". Thanks for not bringing gear guys...
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneplankawanka View Post
So... Some Avi training and pit digging would have helped these guys determine the safety of the snow layers and terrain they were about to ride was safe?

Its beyond comprehension to me that they would ride BC w/o the benefit and piece of mind of some Avi training, let alone shovels, transceivers etc. Lucky bastards indeed.
Not that it matters but it doesn't sound like these guys were BC riding.

They are just mountain hikers. All the work none of the fun IMHO
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneplankawanka View Post
So... Some Avi training and pit digging would have helped these guys determine the safety of the snow layers and terrain they were about to ride was safe?

Its beyond comprehension to me that they would ride BC w/o the benefit and piece of mind of some Avi training, let alone shovels, transceivers etc. Lucky bastards indeed.
digging pits only gives you an idea of snow stability via its history and faceted layers (if they are even viewable) in the area that a rider/climber is in at the time. a pit could indicate that the snow is safe and appears stable at the top of a peak, however a 20 feet below there could be a weak layer causing a crown fracture or slab release due to a change slope angle, wind loading, exposure to solar radiation, etc.

it's a game of odds when you are in the b/c-my group tends to go to the same areas where we know the topography of the terrain very well and are aware of most convex aspects, terrain traps and other terrain no-no's, etc. as far as the above comment regarding time, i agree that starting out earlier on your hikes is logical, as it gives you time to turn around if the weather changes from what it was originally reported to have been. personally, i stay away from south facing aspects.

most people/victims that are caught in avys are ''in-the-know'' (or at least are reported 'experts') and do carry proper avy gear. in the climbing story above, these guys were wearing crampons, carried ice axes, did the buddy system, so i am guessing they were beacon'd... but i could be dead wrong.

we see idiots get off the planes here in slc, go up to the resort with know gear/or with gear and no understanding/common sense, no rescue breathing/cpr knowledge and go out the gates and die all the time. the last few years at my local hill has been a game of roulette-so many out-of-town-ers have been washed to their deaths. and then there are all the citidiots that move here and act like they know what the fuck is up-''i watch warren miller and tgr films... don't heckle me when i drop in at the same time with my buddy.''

bottom line, read books, take courses, only ride with people you know can rescue your ass in a worse case situation, pay attention to the weather, ride a lot in the areas you want to hike and listen to that little voice in your head-always.
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It appears to me these guys sadly lacked basic common sense, and the buddy system seemed to fail miserably; when the first guy did not wait for his partner.. BTW thanks for the input Killz and cotout.

unmitigated Hubris.

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