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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    My Avalanche Experience - Helmet Cam Footage and Commentary on Emergency Gear

    Helmet Cam Video of a Slab Avalanche
    http://www.vimeo.com/22250873

    Avalanche "science" is an imprecise science at best. There are no axioms or accurate formulas such as exist in physics or chemistry. Sometimes you can do everything right but things still go wrong and this is why we still all carry rescue gear, even the most experienced or trained amongst us. On a sunny day in Alaska, I learned that lesson well. Pits were dug (by a professional guide) with good results, similar aspects skied and I wasn't even first down the slope when a 500ft wide, 20-30 cm deep crown broke above me and carried me 2000ft down a steep slope at high speed.

    It is here, before the need for rescue gear (shovel, beacon probe), where our preventative measures and gear come into place. I cut hard 45 degrees after seeing the cracks. Mistaking a breaking bit of slab for the edge of the slide, I actually though I would make it just before the rug was pulled out from under me. Lucky for me, I don't use pole straps (another preventative measure) so the only violent tugging came from my skis, which quickly broke off (literally) despite 14 din settings.

    Now was the time to engage the emergency gear. I was wearing a BCA airbag pack (Float 30) but had never even practice-pulled the cord. Indeed, this was only the second day I ever wore it, finding it difficult to find a place to fill it in Japan. With snow being pushed down my throat, I prioritized the avalung, which went in with ease and refocused on pulling the cord. I was being violently tumbled and quickly sank when I started to use my arms to place the lung and pull the cord but the second it was pulled I could feel myself float to the surface and the tumbling slowed. By the end, the bag had my floating on my back, with my feet down slope, not dissimilar to canyoning.

    The runnout was wide and open so I doubt I would have been buried in the end but the equipment served a function nonetheless. The avalung allowed me to breathe rather than choke while tumbling, a big plus when I went to work on my airbag. The airbag changed the washing machine tumble into a gentler slide and kept me much closer to the surface (there was some pepper on the slope so close to the surface was a better place to be, even if it was going to spread out in the runnout). Finally, perhaps the most important piece of emergency equipment was the helmet. I did not bang my head but it was possible. More importantly in this case, it kept my goggles in place and made it much easier to see the avalung, ripcord and which way was up. If you are going to wear emergency preventative equipment, methinks a helmet should top the list.

    I never want to go through that experience again so avoidance of avi prone terrain remains the best policy but at least I now know that if I do, I can keep my wits enough to use the emergency equipment. I hope this post and video reminds others that avalanche risk can never truly be eliminated so always be prepared to deal with the consequences.

    PS. A week later we had a guide caught in a slough and his head pushed against rocks. He was wearing a helmet so got away with some bruising on his head. Had he not, we may have been dealing with a much worse scenario.
    Last edited by StuntCok; 04-13-2011 at 09:28 PM.
    Days on snow this season: 54 Last Season: 83

    www.poachninja.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
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    PS, I don't know how to embed on TGR it seems. If someone could do so or tell me how to edit I would be grateful, thanks.
    Days on snow this season: 54 Last Season: 83

    www.poachninja.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pullman, WA
    Posts
    151
    Here is a working link while you try to embed it

    http://vimeo.com/22250873

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Land of Brine Shrimp and Magic Underwear
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    5,303



    edit: all you need is the video number in between the tags.
    There's nothing better than sliding down snow and flying through the air.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Cyburbia & Tahoe, CA
    Posts
    4,504


    Fixed the video for you.

    Wow, so glad you're here in one piece to tell the story. Interesting perspective on avalung plus airbag. I had sort of figured if I had an ABS, I'd probably skip the avalung. I guess I'll rethink that.
    **
    I'm a cougar, not a MILF! I have to protect my rep! - bklyn

    In any case, if you're ever really in this situation make sure you at least bargain in a couple of fluffers.
    -snowsprite

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Ma
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    3,601
    Wow glad you are ok. What cause the slide? When / if you went back to the pit could you find any weaknesses that were missed?

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
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    We didn't go back to the pit but I am guessing we found a bit of buried surface hoar that wasn't there where the pit was. When heliskiing, you have the advantage of a lot of support around you but the disadvantage of covering massive areas.
    Days on snow this season: 54 Last Season: 83

    www.poachninja.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    701
    damn, glad you're ok man. thanks for sharing.
    Twitter: @BeerMountaineer
    Website: www.BeerMountaineer.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    702
    Wow. I mean....wow. So interesting to see it from a video camera as well. I'm so glad you are fine and am impressed you had the composure to put in your avalung while working on the cord.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Hugh's Mom's House
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    10,711
    Holy shit, glad you are OK.

    The pilot was one mellow dude, huh?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    646
    That skiing looked so good before the slide, glad to see you're OK! Why go for the avalung first? Do you think it's because the Float pack is new, and maybe you're "conditioned" to go for the avalung?

    I pulled my ABS once and it took about .5 sec to realize I was in a slide and pull the trigger. I'd practiced the movement many times before and I think that's why I was able to pull the trigger so quickly.

    I remember someone mentioning before that the Venturi values, like on the Float, will only work if you're not already under the snow. They need a clear pathway to pull in air to inflate the bag. It looks like you were under the snow and it inflated no problem. Anyone have any input on this?

    Also, why did the person (guide?) who met you with the skis not have a trigger in his ABS pack?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Summer: US & UK, Winter: Canada
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    384
    Glad you managed to make things go well after they went bad and you're OK. Scary.

    Had to laugh at the "Does that count as a run?" comment, good work.

    Also, most chilled pilot ever?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
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    1,962
    I tried the bag first but I had never practiced the motion and I couldn't get it easily. When snow went down my throat I quickly put in the avalung so I could concentrate on the bag. It seems like a lot of time but it all happened in seconds.

    The guy who came down was not a guide but a member of the group who didn't bring the trigger due to airline hassles I think. I had one over the next week, I can assure you.

    That is actually the reason I got the BCA over the ABS. I travel a lot to ski and using an explosive trigger makes airlines a bit iffy.
    Days on snow this season: 54 Last Season: 83

    www.poachninja.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    63
    Man that slide ruined a great line. Glad to see the equipment worked when it needed to. Sometimes things just go wrong when everything seems fine...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Hidden Valley
    Posts
    541
    Thanks for sharing, glad your OK. Scary stuff...watching the snow slab like that is always ire to watch....

    I'd send that video to Atomic and try to get a free ski

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    48
    Good to hear you are alright.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Ridin' 3 Sisters
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    3,883
    Impressive that we didn't hear a single "Fuuuuuck" or "Shiiiiit" during your entire ride and recovery.

    Very happy that you didn't get hurt beyond the knee tweak.

    Did that count as a run?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Carbondale
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    8,141
    Way to not over react and or panic, glad you are OK bro

  19. #19
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    Jan 2011
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    really? You can't guess it?
    Posts
    309
    So the moral of the story is that the GoPro mounts are really, really strong?

    Glad you're OK.
    Quote Originally Posted by iceman View Post
    This is kinda like the goose that laid the golden egg, but shittier.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Out There
    Posts
    1,651
    Thanks for the perspective SC. Glad you're alright.
    "We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what. -George Santayana, The Philosophy of Travel

    ...it would probably bother me more if I wasn't quite so heavily sedated. -David St. Hubbins, This Is Spinal Tap

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Land of Brine Shrimp and Magic Underwear
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    Just watched, crazy. Way to keep your composure and glad you're all right. that was one hell of a ride!

    Nice perspective on safety precautions and gear but man, line choice played a pretty big role in the outcome too. A good rock band, outcrop or cliff could have been bad at that speed.

    Thanks for sharing.
    There's nothing better than sliding down snow and flying through the air.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
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    Yes. Line choice played a part but it was not my choice- we were guided by the best and even with decent pit results they were avoided exposures and obstacles as the snow was still newish. Last year we hit crazy lines that would never have been ok'ed this year (meteorite comes to mind)
    Days on snow this season: 54 Last Season: 83

    www.poachninja.com

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Raht neer da beech
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    1,157
    :07 you drop
    Your ripping a great line in what looks like great snow

    :19 it cracks and goes cookie cutter
    I see how you tried to cut right and get out but it was HUDGE

    :23 the rug is pulled and your on your ass
    for the next 19 seconds you were in the washing machine and managed to get your avalung in while struggling to pull your rip cord

    :42 I think I hear the airbag inflate
    you pull the ripcoard (I'm going to practice this when I get an airbag) and continue getting washed for another 19 seconds

    1:01 come to a stop in a sitting position on top of the snow
    PRAISE JEBUS

    For 38 seconds you were straight flushed. Coming out of it unscathed was a powder miracle

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    547
    Fuck Jeff. Glad you are alright.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    North Vancouver/Whistler
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    8,625
    Here goes J - glad you are with us still

    http://www.vimeo.com/22250873

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