Whew, that got a bit grim there, but probably worth it for all of us. In my case, after years becoming risk comfortable as a rock and ice climber, I definitely fall back into old bad habits sometimes when it comes to avy terrain. Thus a wakeup once or twice a winter is a good thing — and best the no-doze comes from blogs and video rather than the real thing!
So thanks everyone for the library of interesting and useful comments. While the designers and engineers who make things like beacons don’t tend to listen that much to “public” advice, they do pay attention on occasion. So let’s hope they see our call for transceiver reliability and simplicity. As for “soft” myths such as the warm fuzzy burial and avy dogs as saviors, let’s just try to keep it real. To that end, the “Dozen More Turns” movie came out about a year ago and while most of you have seen it, it’s worth embedding above to round out this blogpost as a resource.
|Someone asked for it, so here it is. Me, 1982, after getting “nail” removed from my femur that was broken in avalanche. If you haven’t seen the story of my worst screwup, it’s always here for the reading.
The one thing “Dozen More Turns” keeps me coming back to is our own group decision processes. Beyond what happens AFTER an avalanche (dogs, beacons, what have you), the process leading up the “accident” is oh so critical. The movie addresses this. The guy who died, Blake, for some reason decided to go above and beyond where the group had decided was safe to ski. If he hadn’t done that, his child would still have a father and his friend would still have a leg. Just that simple little push against the envelope; something most of us have gotten away with. But something we’ve got to be on guard for all the time.
As for avy survival myths, I’d say my last for this series of posts (#3) would be the aftermath. Myth: You get dug out of the snow and ski to the bar for a hot buttered rum. Reality: If you survive, you’ll possibly have life threatening or at least immobilizing injuries (or loose enough gear to strand you). The ramifications of that are obvious. Backcountry skiers should have first aid training, and carry some sort of communication device to help bring in a rescue if it gets to that point. Without those two things, you’re living in a myth if you think you’ll be able to deal with an avalanche accident in any effective way.
So thanks again everyone for your participation. Feel free to comment more if you like. Guest blogs are welcome as well if you have any avy learning experiences you want to write up.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.