View Full Version : Human Factors
01-19-2006, 10:31 AM
kind of a repost:
Check Your Ego's at the Door
This is overlooked way too often. There are many things that go into your decision of where to travel and where to ski. Unfortunatly, how you think and feel at the time can change your decision.
Egos can be a huge problem for newcomers and hard cores alike. They tend to get into large groups and use descents as a measuring stick. If part of your reason for being out in the bc is to show someone else up or beat them to the line then you are in for a short bc shelf life. Bro-brahing is great at home and before the trip to get you pumped up but when it comes down to it you'd better get your mind straight or the mountain will set it straight for you. If you hold your skill too high eventually you will understand how unpredicatable the snow can be. Don't let your confidence get you into a situation that you think you can handle. They don't always turn out as you predict.
Mental and Physical
Mental and Physical aspects are just as important as your knowledge and ability. All the knowledge in the world can't help you if you won't or can't apply it correctly. Things that may affect this application are how you are thinking and feeling at the time. If you are injured, tired, hungry, traveling on a tight time scale, or day dreaming you can miss obvious clues that normally alarm you. You should become aware of your own symptoms (or those in your partners) and be able to focus yourself or call it a day at that point. Getting back can be a problem in itself. Remember that it takes less time to go the longer, safer way than it does to deal with an accident.
Perception and Danger
Perception can be entirely different depending on yout current state of mind. If you are very goal driven and are trying to summit, you may perceive a danger sign as something entirely different than they next person in the group. Don't let your normal travel protocol and procedure get changed because of your mood. If it does, stop and think. Talk to others in the group. Just make sure that they aren't in the same mindset that you are.
Group dynamics play a part. Groups larger than 4 can pose problems for clear thinking. Often it is harder to agree on where to go and how to get there. People get the safety in numbers mindset and ignore or write off signs of instability because they think someone else didn't seem concerned about it so I won't mention it either. Have you ever been in a group and decided to ski a suspect slope just because you thought you had rescuers? I have. It is not a very wise choice of precaution. If you do get buried you have a 1 in 3 chance of survival right off the bat. Take out the 25% that die of trauma and you window just shrank. That is just something to think about before putting all your trust in a rescue operation. Be selective with whom you tour. Your ability to funtion as a group could make the difference.
As always, communication between the party is paramount. Talk things over and be in agreeance. Don't be afraid to be the spoiler if you are uncomfortable with the situation. You just might prevent an accident. But remember that just because you got away with something doesn't mean it was stable. You may have just missed the sweet spot.
just because you went that way before or earlier in the day doesn't make it safe. conditions change weekly, daily and even hourly. knowing a slope or route is good but shouldn't override your good decision making.
excellent link for those interested in more indepth reading:
01-19-2006, 01:16 PM
Great stuff. Thanks for posting this.
01-19-2006, 10:57 PM
Here is a good case study from over at ttips in 2004
For the first time this year my ski partner and I headed to Turnagain Arm, to check out the snow pack and ski someplace different for a bit of a change. We have been out skiing every week since October 2nd, all of it in the BC. We regularly check snow pack conditions, both through web updates and digging pits, as well as practice standard backcountry procedures i.e. beacon, shovel, probe, one at a time etc.
We were the second party of two to head off for Tin Can at roughly 10:00am Sunday December 12th. After hiking for a while we caught up with the first party, they were traveling slowly due to breaking trail in deep snow. I swapped out breaking trail with them and soon thereafter they decided to cut off and ski a gully below us. While continuing to break trail a third party caught up with us. I shared trail breaking with them. As we approached the summit ridge (east?) we split and took slightly different routes, meeting at the same location on the ridge. At this time a group of up to a dozen skiers appeared not far behind us. Most of this later group stopped at the lower part of the ridge a few people (5?) were scattered up the ridge with my partner and I being up the highest. Winds were extremely strong on the ridge blowing snow onto the face/bowl that we were planning on skiing. We decided not to go to the summit due to high winds and windblown snow pack, opting to drop into the side of the face. The lower group descended a ways in heavy snow, and I let everyone else descend before heading into the bowl. My partner was on the ridge watching me.
What I was in my head:
a. The group of people that had shown up below us somewhat irritated me, I go to the BC to ski in small groups not be with the masses, a bit of BC snobbery on my part I guess, but I wasn’t inclined to ski down and follow “their lines” after putting in quite a bit of work breaking the trail.
b. The slope faced SW with the fall line more to the S, I figured I would cut across the face (W), to make sure it was stable. I thought the slope may be wind loaded and planned on making a short cut/jump as I do on the top of almost every run. I figured on a decent sized sluff with me being the point of initiation.
c. I wasn’t completely thrilled with the idea of skiing this line (not a green light in my mind) but decided to proceed.
a. When I entered the slope I traversed across, the snow was very deep and soft reducing my speed immediately and bogging me down (this is with fat skis …Jaks). I stopped moving within 5-10’ of entering the slope, since I was cutting across and not dropping in the fall line.
b. I had a few seconds of being immobilized, when the face in front of me started to break in many pieces. Immediately I looked up to see how far the crown was. I estimated it at 20’ away.
c. I was able to brace against the flow of snow for a while, then it started to drag me backwards. I dropped my poles and for a split second thought about releasing my bindings (non-releasable, Hammerheads) as soon as I started to crouch down I got rolled onto my back and scratched that idea in favor of swimming to keep my head up. I ended up on my back, head pointed down hill, swimming (poorly) with snow sliding over top of me.
d. The slide continued on for 1000’?? (it went a decent ways down). Fortunately I only traveled a short distance. My poles ended up about 20’ below me and I managed to get up fairly quickly (to the great relief of my partner).
e. Estimated the crown to be 150-200’ long, ranging from 6-24” deep but these are guesstimates. I didn’t go back up to check. I had dropped in on the side with the deepest section of crown.
a. I let other people being in the area influence my route decision, as I was disinclined to follow them after putting in so much work.
b. While the snow was very deep lower on the mountain, it was not showing any large instability (I like to break trail it gives me a better feel for the snow pack, and helps me with reading snow pit conditions). However, the conditions higher up on the mountain were noticeably different from down low, primarily due to very strong winds. I did not take this into account as I normally would.
c. I was extremely lucky that the snow was a soft slab and that the crown was fairly close, being able to resist the initial part of the slide kept me from going on a “big ride”. I am certain that if I had headed down the fall line to gain speed for a turn instead of traversing out a few feet that I would have been in a much worse location, say 40’ below the crown rather than 20’ and certainly wouldn’t have been able to resist the initial flow. Also the area to skiers left, where the deepest art of the crown was, did not release but was unstable as well. When I poked around in that area just after the slide a 5’crack shot out. If this had released the slide could have been bigger by maybe a third.
d. Here is the snow report from the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, I did not have access to this until today, I definitely would have reconsidered our intended line had I gotten a hold of this information before hand, as it pretty much predicts the avalanche:
“strong low pressure in the Bering sea combined with warm moist air jetting up from the south could bring more snow for our area. In the past 24 hours, the Center Ridge weather station has reported .5” of water with temps in the mid 20’s. At 1800 feet, there should be approximately 4” of new snow in the past 24 hours on top of about 16 inches accumulated over the past couple days. Yesterday on Tincan, several small soft slab avalanches were released by skiers and snowboarders on the southwest face. The new surface snow has not had time to bond to older snow, and this will continue to be an area of concern throughout today if it keeps snowing. Steep faces, rollovers, and wind deposited snow will be tender and likely to slide today. The forecast is calling for winds gusting up to 40 out of the east. This could load western aspects with windslabs near ridges and peaks. Hopefully, the temps will stay in the 20’s and give us several inches of fairly light density snow. If it gets warmer, watch out for wet heavy snow on top of the dry powder that we saw yesterday. Remember that most avalanches occur during and within 24 hours of storms. Today is a good day to think about your route selection.”
I let others influence my decision making, always a bad call, but particularly when in a new snow pack and on a mountain I had never been on, although my partner has skied this area numerous times (completely asinine on my part I know, but we all make mistakes on occassion). I was extremely lucky that the slab was soft and that I was able to resist the flow for a while. This kept me out of the bulk of the snow therefore keeping me from traveling far down the slope or being seriously buried. I was tentative approaching the slope, and didn't pay attention to what my brain was really telling me ( this is a bad idea!), I am fortunate that I was tentative as I am certain that boldly jumping in would have been extremely hazardous to my way of living. This emphasizes the need to carefully evaluate the snow pack and to keep informed on the latest conditions, and make decisions independently of everyone else. As I am merely a weekend warrior and things change quickly out there.
I hope this information will keep others from making similar mistakes.
01-21-2006, 08:50 AM
Now pay attention when I am typing at ya son.
This here poster is a picture of my gerl friend,(aint she sumthin)
Now substitute her picture for you...sheeshhh...I know...I know... for instructional purpose only
Your body is like a small corporation, with the brain as the boss # 1
OK your most important employee is # 2 --eerr ah you know what I mean
Now we have the arms employee # 3 (twins)
Pay attention Son, try not to let # 3 employee fraternize with # 2 .... for the duration of this lesson that is.
OK On to employee # 4 the legs
Employee # 5 the guts ( ya see where I am going with this)
(now we all know that to sustain any amount of longevity all the parts have to work together)
We have all had boss`s that are narrow minded condescending assholes that think all employee are fcuikng idiots
Even though we are all in this together the boss doesn't understand this ( ya see what I am saying son)
OK, so one day employee # 5 says to the boss...hey boss I don't think this is a good idea, and the boss tells him to shut the fcuk up and keep going.
It is survival instinct.
Its the subtle subliminal messages that the eye and body picked up, but the brain missed (ya follow me son)
Its survival instinct ( its like the cat walking across your front yard, ya look out the window and the cat stops and looks right at ya )
Its the gut feeling
The survival instinct
The pay attention when I am talking to ya
Speaking from personal experience-
-Breaking trail along a tree covered slope I stopped, I don't know why I stopped, I think my guts detected the subtle change in the snow under my skis. The guy behind me grumbled past, he got 3 ski lengths ahead and the slope ripped loose. He went about 55 meters. Lost his hat. Hence the name Lost Touk Chute
-One other time employee # 5 suggested maybe not. We went back about a hr. later. There was 1.5 meters of deposit in the slide path.
Its your natural survival instincts trying to make suggestions for the continuation of the corporation.
Ya got to keep all your employees happy.
Especially employee # 2 (ya follow me son)
Pay attention when your employees are speaking at ya.
Why if I didn't have super sharp survival instincts that barnyard dawg would be after all my hens.
Ya gotta know how to handle it, one wrong move and you're done for
This is gonna cause more confusion than a mouse at a burlesque show
01-21-2006, 09:44 PM
Hey big cock of the walk, er I mean Foghorn sir, which employee # was I? #5 perhaps, because I know who the toque guy was who grumbled past. Think he's still grumbling to this day. Maybe you are #5 and never even mentioned me poor ol' employee #6. That's OK and I'm still given 'er!
We have been flim-flammed!!
01-22-2006, 11:37 AM
Fortunately I keep my feathers numbered for,
just such an emergency.
I stand corrected its, toque not touk
01-26-2006, 08:27 AM
Damn I am glad that those pics got posted, with what we hit earlier I was fairly comfortable to go back again, honestly been dreaming about that shit everyday since we hit it. Really it was a case of powder lust mmmmmm......powder........very powerful drug......very stupid move. I was the final decision maker among the group. The only analysis that I did was probing with my pole on different aspects for differing density in the snowpack. In the areas probed I deemed it to be a fairly uniform high density snow pack. I had actually asked about checking the CAIC the night before and that morning in the friggin parking lot, we were all passed out early the night before and were going at warp speed to hit the slopes that morning. We had no knowledge of the danger rating or higher risk aspects. The other variables that I used to make my decision was the seemingly constant grade of the slope where we were skiing and what appeared to be safety zones in the trees on the upper half. I looked at the area we skiied numerous times from an inbounds hike along a neighboring ridgeline and thought that the slope was pretty constant without any noticeable convex spots. Once we got under the trees on the upper half of the slope I could see that there was a line that went through what appeared to be a well anchored area, reminded me of the golf course at Steamboat with branches sticking out of the snow everywhere. The grade of the slope increased here and I visualized where a fracture would occur if something was triggered. I probed the snow pack multiple times at the top with my pole and went for it. I pretty much straightlined the lower section. Looking back and analyzing the situation I did realize that this was an increased risk zone, I did not know the history of where we were......big mistake, pretty stupid. I ended up pulling the cord on it midday when I saw 2 slides, one with tracks coming out of the foot of the slide path on some bigger mountain terrain to our east. There was a big change in the upper snow pack and heavier high density sluff movement could be felt, things were turning to heavy corn on top of 2' of 3 day old powder and I was getting very uncomfortable. There was a small natural slide that ran across the catwalk from a steep rock face on a similar aspect that we were skiing on and I knew that our fun there was over. We were lucky and I think that a lesson has been learned. That is the first time that I have skied BC out of a resort without gear or any local knowledge, because of that I don't think that I was in 100% full BC mode. Hopefully I won't let that bullshit happen again. Feel free to bring on the pain, a lesson may be learned and a bad situation may be avoided in the future.
BTW no worries there mtnbikerskierchick
Good stoke glad I didn't get killed
02-01-2006, 08:37 AM
Re-read Chapter 10 of Tremper.
If I'm reading correctly, 80% of victims have some sort of avalanche training/education. People seem to think that once you take your Level 1 class, all is well. Not true. Education is only part of the equation, you need to be able to think, evaluate, process, and make decisions correctly.
"The avalanche doesn't care if you're an expert."
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