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Old 01-11-2013, 12:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
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If you get caught in an avalanche, you're already relying heavily on luck to survive it. No amount of gear or rescue experience can save you if you're buried 4 meters deep, get swept off a cliff, or smashed through trees, rocks, etc.

Honestly, if given an either or choice, I'd go into the BC with highly knowledgeable folks with no gear whatsoever than less knowledgeable folks with all the latest and greatest in avy gear. Obviously that isn't a required choice, just a hypothetical.

Avy gear is kind of like seat belts and airbags in your car. Yeah, you want to have them, but plan A, B, and C is to not need them. Avy gear is a bit different because it isn't all rescue equipment, some of it can double as evaluation tools as well.
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Old 01-11-2013, 12:15 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Beacon, shovel, probe are must haves. You don't have them, you don't get to ride the backcountry. It's that simple. You want to buy a 2013 Audi but only have enough money for a scooter, than you are not going to buy an Audi. End of story.

Going out without that gear doesn't mean you're going to die, but neither does poking a beehive with a stick mean you are going to get stung...
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:26 AM   #13 (permalink)
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One thing that I think bears mentioning too is that until you are actually in the real deal, none of knows for sure how we will perform. It is easy to sit safely and comfortably in our arm chairs in front of a computer and judge.
dude, yea but did you see how long he pissed with his glove. Its like he was trying it on at the store. No sense of urgency. That one top of 10 other things is what everyone is so "uhhhhhhhhh" about.
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:22 AM   #14 (permalink)
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This shows how important it is to keep eyes on the victim.
If these guys had to do a real signal search, then a coarse seach, then a fine search followed by a probe search they would have had no chance.
Eyes on people!
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Old 01-12-2013, 03:21 AM   #15 (permalink)
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There's a lot more info on this at Skier triggered avalanche on Echo Peak | Sierra Avalanche Center

The victim offers the following:

"I know that our party, the party involved in the December 29th incident on Echo Peak, made numerous mistakes. I chose to make the helmet cam video available to Sierra Avalanche Center so that others could learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. As the leader of the party, I take full credit for all of the mistakes and want to document what I've learned from them.

The first mistake was taking an inexperienced, ill-equipped group into the backcountry. Every member of the party should have been carrying a beacon, probe, and shovel. Additionally every member of the party should have been trained in avalanche safety. We only had two complete kits among our party of five, carried by the female skier in the video and by me, the skier who was caught in the slide. The other three members of the party were complete novices in the backcountry, able to ski black diamonds at a resort, but with no experience out of bounds. As the party leader, I should never have taken the group up Echo Peak, but I let the party's excitement about the day sway my decision. I made a bad decision.

The second mistake I made was allowing the excitement in the group to override sound decision making. Two of the inexperienced members of the party had never summited Echo. Safety and snow pack conditions dictated turning the group around at tree line and descending the ridge crest. However, I let emotion make the decision and allowed the party to continue above tree line to the summit. This decision required descending the slope directly above the ridge terminus. A slope that I knew was prone to sliding under the right circumstances, and having kept abreast of conditions, I knew conditions were conducive to an an avalanche. Again, I made a bad decision.

We skied one at a time from the crest to a safe zone in the trees at the start of the ridge proper, but I made my third mistake by choosing to ski a line slightly skier's left of the safest line to the meeting point in the trees. The female skier in the group asked that I not ski that line, but I let my emotions once again get the better of me. The several turns in untracked snow on a 45 degree slope were just too tempting. My intentions were to ski to skier's left of the large rocks where the slide released from, then veer hard to skier's right and meet the party on the ridge. I knew that the slope was convex. I knew that there was a rock band below my intended route. My thoughts were, "I've skied this line before. It's only a few turns." I made a very bad decision. Fortunately I have been able to kick myself repeatedly for it.

Once the slope let go, I was helpless. Everything I'd ever heard, read, or talked about went through my mind. Stay on top. Get your feet downhill. Backstroke. Remember to create an air pocket when the slide slows. Punch a hand towards the sky. The truth is that I was at the mercy of the snow. I went over the rock step head first on my back. Fortunately, I didn't crater on impact and end up buried by the rest of the snow as it came over the edge. Instead, I was rag dolled out of my crater and ended up somehow close to the surface. I was able to punch one fist upward as the slide slowed, but otherwise was completely unable to move. Everything was black and the urge to panic was overwhelming. After repeatedly telling myself to calm down, I was able to clear an airway with my free hand. Then all I could do was wait. I was very lucky.

Much has been made on various forums about the way that the skier with the helmet cam handled the rescue. He has been flamed for taking his gloves off, for telling the female skier with the beacon to take her time in transitioning the gear to him, for not putting the handle in the shovel, ad infinitum. The truth is, I am proud of the way he, a novice at avalanche rescue, handled the situation. He knew that the female skier was panicking and had to keep her calm. He knew that the whole party shouldn't descend to the burial site. He left two people on the ridge to watch the hangfire. Then he descended to the burial site with a partner, one at a time, in a controlled manner. In debriefing after the incident, we discussed what he could have done differently. It goes without saying that he should have left his gloves on. Other than that, there are two possible scenarios. First scenario:Once the skier in the black jacket had located my glove above the debris, the one unburied probe and beacon should have been left on the ridge. That way a beacon/probe search could have been initiated in the case of a secondary avalanche burying the rescue party. Second scenario: My glove was located above the debris, but what if my hand wasn't in it? Seen from 100 meters away, it was impossible to tell. If the beacon and probe were left on the ridge, that would have led to additional delays in getting the rescue gear to the burial and would have put one more skier in the path of a secondary release. As for the unassembled shovel, I have to take credit for that mistake. I should have made sure that the entire party knew where the rescue gear was located and how to assemble it before ever leaving the trailhead. Finally, my rescuer didn't relinquish shoveling duties to his partner once his hands started to freeze. He could have either taken the time to get gloves on his wet hands, or asked the skier in the black jacket to continue digging while he warmed his hands.

I'm sure that there are many more lessons to learn from this incident. That is the reason that I chose to let Sierra Avalanche Center make the video public. My hope was that I would receive constructive criticism and maybe force other people to review their decisions and the process by which they make those decisions. I knew that we would be flamed for our mistakes, but I'll take the flames if my mistakes will help keep others safe. My hope also is that all of the flaming does not discourage others from making public their mistakes, so that we, the backcountry community, can learn from each other. We all make mistakes, some of us more than others, I am sure, but we all make mistakes. I've watched countless avalanche videos and thought, "What an idiot!" "Why'd the dude do that?" or "That guy is completely clueless." Guess this time I'm the idiot and the clueless one. Hopefully, because I chose to share this video, you won't be the clueless one if or when things go wrong."
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:28 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I fallowed this last week and i wont get into what i think about it. i see one thing that drives me nuts in the backcountry lately. Almost everyone has a gopro or some sort of camera to self promote themselves but cant buck up and spend 200 dollars on a beacon. A beacon is not only your life line but the people you ride with. Respect the people you ride with.
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Old 01-12-2013, 03:26 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Just point out to them that one of the skiers killed in the Tunnel Creek avalanche was wearing an airbag and deployed it correctly. The trees shredded it. They may protect you from a burial, but trauma might still get you.
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Old 01-12-2013, 03:58 PM   #18 (permalink)
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some of u people are unbelievable... unless you have saved someones life you are in no position to judge... pathetic
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Old 01-12-2013, 04:01 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linvillegorge View Post
Just point out to them that one of the skiers killed in the Tunnel Creek avalanche was wearing an airbag and deployed it correctly. The trees shredded it. They may protect you from a burial, but trauma might still get you.
Are you sure about this? The NY Times article only says Elyse had an airbag, and she was the survivor, which she believes was due to the airbag keeping her up. The other three died from trauma/asphyxiation.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:44 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I personally find this position is a bit too absolutist. There are plenty of back country opportunities available where this gear is totally unnecessary. We have plenty of very low angle trails, forest service roads and trail system that offer safe terrain for people to ski and ride without being exposed to risk.

The Tohama Hut system out of Ashford, Wa. near Mt. Rainer for example, is a great place for people to tour without danger whether it be snow shoers, Nordic, Tele or splitters. On Mt Hood above Tilly Jane on Cooper Spur, there are hundreds of square acres of gentle, rolling, safe, open and super fun terrain to ride that is low angle and has never seen an avalanche since the mountain formed. I personally like Mt. St. Helens because there is great riding opportunities there that remain safe even when the Black Rose rears its ugly head. One of my favorite area used to be Lolo Pass on the Idaho/Montana border on US 12. It is a high country plataue that gets a shit load of great snow and has endless opportunities for real wilderness back country travel without exposure to avalanche hazards.

All over the west, not to mention places in the UP of Michigan, there are unlimited Nordic trails that offer plenty of treed and low angle terrain to play on. Plenty of Nordic skiers go into wilderness areas on overnight trips without the need of this gear.

I ride back country solo all over the PNW as well as Alaska. This gear is of little use when solo and only an airbag and a PLB would be worthwhile for solo back country riding. The difference is in education so that the back country rider knows what is safe and what is potentially dangerous. Also it is a matter of self control and sticking to using good decision making and not allowing yourself to get sucked into powder fever and violate your personal minimums. Part of what I do is teach aspiring back country riders to use good decission making skills and be able to accurately judge what terrain is safe for them and what requires gear and further education.
If you don't have the gear, you are not ready for the backcountry.

You can make choices after the fact about if you need it or not. If you don't own this gear, then the fact is you don't know what is safe or not. I don't know anyone with training that doesn't have this gear. I stand by my statement.
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