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04-10-2012, 10:04 AM #1
Buffalo Mountain skier death analysis thread
This thread is for a more formal analysis of the incident on Buffalo in which a skier fell and died.
This thread is not intended to disrespect the dead or impugn the party's decisions, it is to look at the incident in a way that others may learn from it.
The extensive post written by his brother provides a lot of information.
Some possible items of discussion:
despite our caution we all slid out at some point of the ski.
About half way down this pitch he hit a patch of hard packed ice that his skis were unable to hold, and he went into a tumble where both his skis ejected.
Jeff did exactly what he could, and rolled onto his stomach, dug the toes of his ski boots in the steep and icy ground, and jammed his ski pole above his head in an attempt to self arrest.
Proper self-arrest position, note lifted feet and arrest device under the chest:
So I knelt beside my brother and took his left hand in my right while I applied as much pressure as possible to his right quadricep with my left hand.
The party seemed to have good knowledge of CPR / rescue breathing. SAR response is as good as can be expected given the terrain.
Again, this is not to disrespect the dead or impugn the party, it is simply a bare discussion of facts and decisions that may have led to a different outcome.
Last edited by coreshot-tourettes; 04-11-2012 at 11:20 AM.
04-10-2012, 10:36 AM #2
The following comments are general comments and do not refer to this specific tragedy:
CM, your statements about self arrest apply to crampon wearing climbers. If you do not have crampons on, toes instead of knees can be a better choice.
If a skier has normal poles, not an axe or whippet, I'm uncertain whether weighting one pole under the head/upper torso is superior to trying to put one pole tip in with each hand or simply digging in knuckles. I think it depends on the circumstances. To my mind, many circumstances where pole tips would be better than knuckles, you'd be completely out of control by the time you could choke up on the baskets and plant.Originally Posted by blurred
04-10-2012, 10:50 AM #3
I've practiced ditching one pole and getting the other in both hands close to the basket, I can do it fairly quick. Choking up on both at the same time is not practicable.
04-10-2012, 10:55 AM #4
Brutah, Looking at the incident with an eye toward preventing it from happening again is not "shitting on someone's grave."
04-10-2012, 11:02 AM #5
i retracted that statement, i understand that analysis will save people in the future.
i've skied plenty of steep, icy terrain on fritschis. lots of people have. is the edge control a little compromised? yes, but after skiing on them once that becomes obvious. plenty of steep first descents were done on less than desirable gear.
trying to ski steep terrain "like a rock star" seems to be the first mistake that was made. too easy to get out of control and less time to respond when conditions change. Especially in the spring/summer months when snow is less likely to be soft and more likely to be icy
Also, practicing choking up on a ski pole to use for a self arrest??? I don't think your ski tip is going to be too effective. If you're skiing steep terrain during the spring or summer, get an ice ax or whippet. that's basically the only chance you have to self arrest
04-10-2012, 11:15 AM #6
trying to ski steep terrain "like a rock star" seems to be the first mistake
Last edited by coreshot-tourettes; 04-10-2012 at 11:28 AM.
04-10-2012, 11:42 AM #7
A ski pole tip will at least get your feet below you, better to hit feet first then head first .
So I just spent 2 weeks in Europe, and noted no open uses whippets over there, and the general attitude is
disdain towards them. Interestingly though, some of the guys snowboarding the gnar gnar of the gnar descend with 2 ice tools in their hands.
One tip I picked up from a guide was putting your ice axe/tool between your pack and and your back thru the grab loop. That way you can fish it out if you get into a tight spot (but, obviously doesn't help much if your sliding)
Another thing I figured out from Europe was high end steep skiing is pretty much like free soloing in climbing - one mistake and bad things happen. For instance, if you watch video of great skiers skiing the
steep gnar it's pretty boring and slow to watch (hop or pedal turn/come to a stop/turn again). Doug Coombs, Seth, etc all do this.Life is a lot like climbing: there isn't anything much more comforting than a good #2.
04-10-2012, 11:49 AM #8
I'll take moment to talk about what the victim and his party did right:
- Took turns skiing the narrow chute
- Waited until later in the day to get softer snow, knowing that icy conditions may exist
- The victim wore a helmet
- The victim wore proper, waterpoof outdoor gear to protect him from potential protracted exposure to adverse weather.
- The party carried (and used) a space blanket to protect the victim from cold exposure as he rested on the snow.
- The party documented deteriorating medical condition so that they could brief rescuers when they arrived.
- The party stayed with the victim, preserving his airway, and attempting to stop blood loss.
It seems to me that if this had been a frontcountry accident, the victim would be alive. The cause of death, IMHO, was the delay caused by the need to scramble a SAR team. This is not to blame the SAR volunteers and workers, but simply to say that when you venture into the backcountry, you are assuming added risk because of the delay in rescue response time.
I think it's important to study the choices and actions that led to the death, but also important to give credit to those involved for all the good choices they made to mitigate the chances of a terrible accident like this one. RIP.
04-10-2012, 11:54 AM #9
Something that I do think when standing on top of something is "If I fuck up, what are the injuries I could sustain? How long will it take to extract me, and will I survive that?"
If you've ever been WAY the hell out there where extraction will take weeks (we're not talking anywhere in the US, we're talking glacier in China, middle of the desert in Niger, or middle of the ocean), you get exceedingly careful and exact about everything remotely dangerous, not because the risk is high, but because the consequences are high. Something as small as a sprained ankle, small but infected cut, or stomach bug can easily result in your death.
Last edited by coreshot-tourettes; 04-10-2012 at 12:04 PM.
04-10-2012, 12:08 PM #10
04-10-2012, 12:27 PM #11
The Euro guides seem to be keen on the pedal hop turn -- my guide was saying when you get it dialed it's like walking down the steeps, and it require the use of both poles. When you dial it in you have no forward momentum post turn, which you need in the steep and narrow.
I've also heard climb it before you ski it, but that has it's own negatives too.
Slick gore-tex vs. grippy soft shell pants/jackets? Any experiences here?Life is a lot like climbing: there isn't anything much more comforting than a good #2.
04-10-2012, 03:38 PM #12
Climb before ski seemed to be followed here, as the blog post has a picture with ascent and descent following the same line.
04-10-2012, 04:46 PM #13Registered User
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- Coastal Range
The way to apply force and stabilize the pick only comes from the right angle between the ice pick and axe handle.
I thought, and might be totally wrong about this, that it is always best to lift feet off the slide because they seem to catch at the most inopportune time and even break legs.when you really, really need to slap someone, just do it, and then yell, "Mosquito!"
04-10-2012, 05:53 PM #14Registered User
"Alpine rock and steep, deep powder are what I seek, and I will always find solace there." - Bean Bowers
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shroom put it best: "Man, you're one biased motherfucker."
04-10-2012, 05:54 PM #15
04-10-2012, 06:49 PM #16Registered User
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I did not try this http://www.epicski.com/a/self-arrest-techniques . That could work if the snow was soft.
On the melt-freeze crust, I found it too difficult to get one hand that high and the other one secured at the metal tip. The metal tip tended to rip right out of my hand and I needed two hands on the tip just to keep it into the face.
With an Ice Axe, the body provides good pressure and the body position is right as well with the addition that the axe head has a curve that self-bites.when you really, really need to slap someone, just do it, and then yell, "Mosquito!"
04-10-2012, 07:23 PM #17
I don't have enough info on Jeff's injuries to be sure, but I think application of a tourniquet could have been life-saving here.
04-10-2012, 07:38 PM #18
This might be a good place to point out that the North Couloir/Silver Couloir isn't super steep - around 40 degrees at the crux:
I've skied it and I believe icy conditions could easily lead to the accident as it happened, but I also think a pole tip arrest might/maybe/coulda/woulda helped mitigate the deal.
And yeah, a tourniquet.
04-10-2012, 09:23 PM #19Registered User
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- Jan 2008
Regarding ice axe or ski pole arrest, I agree it's important to have the tip under the chest, and then to lift the rest of the torso off the snow so that all the weight is on the tool under the chest and on the toes (knees if wearing crampons.) The key to arresting is doing it before you get going. If you're going so fast your toes will flip you, you are probably going too fast to arrest period. The fact that the victim was able to attempt arrest in any position after a tumbling fall is remarkable. In any case arresting by any technique is extremely difficult on truly no fall terrain, and I don't know too many people who have practiced it on that kind of terrain, even roped. The theory is to practice the moves on easier snow and hope it will work on the real thing.
As far as the bleeding, given the location of the bleeding from the quadriceps I doubt there was a femoral artery injury. To the general public external bleeding always looks worse than it is. Nonetheless given the prolonged wait for evacuation the thigh bleeding did contribute. Judging by the high initial respiratory rate it's very possible he had major chest internal injuries that were the main cause of death.
Compressing the femoral artery through intact skin--even if the clothing is removed--hard enough to stop bleeding downstream is very difficult. It's hard enough to do in the operating room with the thigh surgically opened. The military is currently teaching the use of tourniquets. However, the use of a tourniquet in the Buffalo Mountain incident has some problems. First, it's hard for the person advising by phone to tell if the bleeding is bad enough to justify the tourniquet, or whether it's been exaggerated by an inexperienced, frightened observer. Even medical professionals get fixated on visible bleeding and forget about the more serious internal injuries. Second, it's very difficult for an inexperienced person to tighten a tourniquet, especially a thigh tourniquet, enough to stop the bleeding. If it's not tightened enough blood gets into the leg and can't get out and that blood is lost to the circulation.
From the description it sounds like the snow was firm but manageable until Jeff hit a patch of ice. So it's hard to fault the decision to ski down the couloir. And frankly, at 40 degrees firm snow is probably safer then fresh powder waiting to avalanche.
I don't see anything to fault in the conduct of the skiers or the medical and rescue personnel. My condolences to Jeff's family, and our thanks to Jeff's brother for reminding us that it doesn't have to be 60 degrees ending in a cliff for a line to be dangerous..
04-10-2012, 09:51 PM #20Registered User
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04-10-2012, 09:53 PM #21
I think old goat's post is spot on.
My assessment: This was bad luck. Nothing more.Originally Posted by blurred
04-10-2012, 10:09 PM #22
I have started carrying an Israeli bandage and Celox/Quikclot in a trauma kit attached to my waistbelt. The neat thing about the Israeli bandage is that it allows the bandage itself to exert lots of pressure on the wound without becoming a tourniquet. (It can be used as a TQ and sling as well) The Celox is a very fast clotting accelerator that can stop even large bleeds near-instantly. Celox won't help internal bleeding obviously.
04-10-2012, 10:15 PM #23
Thanks for that. I will have to get one of those for way out toursLicense to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations
04-10-2012, 10:21 PM #24Registered User
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- North Vancouver/Whistler
+1 on Celox - comes in small easy to use packets. Also have a skin stapler but no-one wants to let me near them to use it for some reason
04-11-2012, 01:24 AM #25far from my next whomp
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condolences to the family and friends of the victim.
i have arrested a long fall/slide using my pole tips on a medium-steep m/f crust. i used a similar technique as that shown in that epicski link. it was awkward for me because i was using my pole straps, these definitely slowed me down in getting into a useful arrest position with the pole. if i had not been using my pole straps, getting into the arrest position would have gone faster.
i have also witnessed a lucky accident involving a friend giving into his impulse and deciding to rail down a sierra couloir in spring powder condition, hit an ice patch, and slide/starfish until he came to a stop on the exit apron over a thousand feet down. we were all super lucky that he didn't get very hurt. we were a full day ski from a car, we didn't have cell phones (late 90's). he was going way too fast to arrest. he wasn't intentionally "skiing like a rock star" but the snow was really good (except for the ice) and that's generally how he prefers to ski. he has since changed how he approaches skiing in the backcountry.