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Old 11-14-2011, 10:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Let's Talk early season snowpack.

I know that the Jaime Pierre thread is bound to bring some arm chair quarterbacking into the thread. So this is going to be the thread to talk about what happened, questions, thoughts.

First off, early season snow is some of the scariest around. The Continental and intermountain states, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, etc, got decent snowfalls in early October. Then like clock work next to nothing for weeks. The temps didn't get warm enough to melt it off. That thin layer of snow experienced a strong temperature gradient in a lot of the areas and grew facets like crazy. Facets are a great layer for snow to slide on as it is super weak. Add some big storms and wind events and it's a recipe for disaster. Sounds like Utah is right in the middle of this at the moment.

Second, just because there isn't much snow on the ground doesn't mean you need not to worry much. In fact it's quite the opposite. Remember, if there is enough snow to ride, there is enough snow to slide. As little as 6" of ground cover has produced life taking avalanches. Think about it though. With the relatively small amount of snow on the ground, if you go for a ride, you are going to be striking stuff like rocks, trees, stumps, logs, more easily than when there is 10+ feet on the ground. You're going to get broken up. Think of the consequence if it does go.

Third, bring and use your avalanche gear. I don't care if you think you need it or not. It helps set your mind into thinking about avalanches and consequences. Turn that brain on, it's the only thing that is going to save your ass. I highly recommend that every one who skis or rides take a basic avy course, or at least attend some of the free seminars. Just to get an understanding of what you are dealing with in your area. Roads get swept by avalanches just like riders. Avalanches do sometimes happen in bounds. If you know what the warning signs are, you just might avoid a bad situation. This stuff is easy, but you need to learn about it.

Finally, we can talk about this accident and other happens in the backcountry/sidecountry right now. Early season dangers abound. Let's try to keep it on topic, but I'll let this thread tread into areas where I am not going to stand for it on the Jamie Pierre thread. He paid the ultimate price. So if you are going to douche up a thread, douche up this one.
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Old 11-16-2011, 10:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow, not much a response here.

The Utah Avalanche Center has put out their report on the Jamie Pierre accident. It's a good read. Lot's of things can be learned from this.
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Old 11-16-2011, 10:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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i really find it strange that this one went down like this. i'd chalk it all up to early season powderlust causing these guys to make some really bad decisions.

first, i find it hard to believe that they could set off a slide the size of the one in Peruvian without noticing it. that was such a large slab - and it was triggered from below! that right there would be enough to send me home i had showed up without avy gear (WTF????!?), or at least i'd like to think so.

no avy gear..... its just... just.... SMH

then to make the decision to ride that slope... that is a terrain trap. if it goes where are you gonna go? just looking at it it doesn't even seem like there would be enough snow to create and avalanche but like killz has reiterated; deep enough to ride, deep enough to slide. these are things we need to evaluate when we are out in the mts.

vibes for the family and friends.
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Old 11-16-2011, 10:43 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I haven't been on my computer for a couple days so I haven't been able to talk about this.

The report from the UAC is pretty good. Both accidents that occured on Sunday, the Jamie Pierre and also a skier broke his femur earlier in the day. I know shit was really bad. Just look at the UAC site and on Sunday it is straight Avalanche reports.

I have had the pleasure of working night shift this week so I get to ride during the day. A few interesting notes I have seen inbounds. A guy might have dropped his glove under the lift but he walked right up to a cliff band and stopped and turned around. If you follow his footsteps there is a lot of cracking and collapsing on the snow pack where he walked. I don't know how your guys snowpack is shaping up but anything in the NW-E facing stuff is pretty much a no go right now with the old October snow on it. This was my biggest fear when we had that storm.

The slide in peruvian that they didn't notice is HUGE!!! How do you not notice that? I hate to say anything bad but that is one of those it happens and you get out of where you are.

Here is the write up of the other accident in case you are interested
http://utahavalanchecenter.org/accid...sight_11132011
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Old 11-16-2011, 10:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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killz,
Thanks for linking the report and the pics...very informative. I'm getting through "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain," "The Avalanche Handbook" and anticipate taking a class later; anyway lots of stuff to digest and figure out a on the snow framework. Setting off that slide in the bowl, idk how you could not go oh shit. Last year at Baker the had a big slide right by chair 8, the fracture shelf had to be 10-12 feet tall/deep and was reported that the debris piles were over 100+ feet deep.
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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i'll preface this by saying i really do feel bad that this happened - it sucks whenever someone dies in the mountains doing what they love.

in my personal experience and observation it's impossible to ignore that lots of high-level climbers, mountaineers (especially), and it stands to follow; riders - there is no doubt that ego comes into play in some of this. i would argue that it is this ego that helps them to perform on such a high level, but it is also needs to be tempered by reason at times. this may have been one of those times that would have benefitted from that.

if you think about it, Jamie took risks that NO ONE else in the alpine world would really even get near. jumping off a 250 foot cliff?? that is just insane and you have to either not care if you live (which i am not suggesting he did) or have some part of your ego that is telling you that you can do it. i imagine he saw some risk in attempting that line and that excitement had to be a motivating factor for him.

i am not saying any of this to condemn Jamie's decisions, but to hope to understand the risk factors that we all face in the mountains. we all need to be aware of our own egos and how they may affect the decision making process, when they help us to conquer fears; and when they may start getting us into trouble. just a thought.
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:13 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Well since this is thread I created to talk about this a bit more frankly, Jamie should have fucking known this was a dangerous undertaking and he chose to continue on. The big slide aside, he dropped into an obvious terrain trap with very high consequence. He ignored every basic principal. First and foremost not bringing his avy gear. Which I think we all agree wouldn't have saved him, but this game is as much more about mindset than it is gear. Bringing the gear helps put your mindset to the right place.

snowvols, I agree on the October snows. It is going to be a serious problem for Utah for a good long period this season I think. It's going to take a lot of snow and a lot of time. The deep slab instability may never go away until you get a more isothermic snow pack. The October snows are just getting ready to be a serious problem in Colorado. Shit is all facets from October and almost all aspects that get decent snow cover have some of it. More on shady slopes of course. Pretty soon we are going to get a lot of snow over a short period that is going to load up those slopes. The same feeding frenzy that we saw in Little Cottonwood Canyon is going to happen at places like Berthoud and Loveland Pass. I am expecting a lot of early season slides if this scenario comes to fruition. In spots where we don't usually see them too, which is going to be another problem.

Do I sound scared? I am...
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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yea... it all seems like this accident could have been avoided with some better decision making, but let's not fool ourselves.... the backcountry is a dangerous place. even with making all the right decisions alpine environments are really fun to play in when everything is going right, but can turn deadly at any time. it can be a very inhospitable place for soft, fleshy, fragile human beings.

a few years ago i decided to guide fishing instead of mountaineering/climbing and the risk/death factor was certainly a part of my decision making process. the only problem is while i love the river, i need the mountains.
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Old 11-16-2011, 12:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Well I will say that in the US, I have never seen an avalanche accident where there weren't warning signs that the effected party chose to ignore or just didn't notice. There have been a few where I think, if that was me I would have done the same thing. I try to learn from each and every accident out there. It's the best way to honor those who lose their lives playing in the backcountry.

shred, you are right, we are pretty fragile beings. Lot's of ways to check out of that thing called life...
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Old 11-16-2011, 12:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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sheeeeeet floatation is for pussies... i'll raise you a hard boat


oh shit. there goes that ego again
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