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04-13-2011, 10:17 PM #1
My Avalanche Experience - Helmet Cam Footage and Commentary on Emergency Gear
Helmet Cam Video of a Slab Avalanche
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 10:28 PM.
04-13-2011, 10:18 PM #2
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.
04-13-2011, 10:21 PM #3Registered User
- Join Date
- Oct 2010
- Pullman, WA
Here is a working link while you try to embed it
04-13-2011, 10:24 PM #4
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.
04-13-2011, 10:28 PM #5
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.
04-13-2011, 10:34 PM #6
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.
04-13-2011, 10:38 PM #7
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.
04-13-2011, 10:42 PM #8
damn, glad you're ok man. thanks for sharing.Twitter: @BeerMountaineer
04-13-2011, 10:43 PM #9
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.
04-13-2011, 10:49 PM #10
Holy shit, glad you are OK.
The pilot was one mellow dude, huh?
04-13-2011, 11:05 PM #11
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?
04-13-2011, 11:08 PM #12
04-13-2011, 11:11 PM #13
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.
04-13-2011, 11:11 PM #14
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...
04-13-2011, 11:16 PM #15
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
04-13-2011, 11:34 PM #16
Good to hear you are alright.
04-13-2011, 11:46 PM #17
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?
04-13-2011, 11:48 PM #18
04-13-2011, 11:48 PM #19Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2011
- really? You can't guess it?
04-13-2011, 11:49 PM #20
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
04-13-2011, 11:52 PM #21
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.
04-14-2011, 12:08 AM #22
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)
04-14-2011, 12:13 AM #23
: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
For 38 seconds you were straight flushed. Coming out of it unscathed was a powder miracle
04-14-2011, 12:44 AM #24
Fuck Jeff. Glad you are alright.
04-14-2011, 01:17 AM #25Registered User
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
- North Vancouver/Whistler
Here goes J - glad you are with us still