Results 1 to 12 of 12
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    In the sewers of Folsom
    Posts
    89

    California East side Avy, 4/14, Tinemaha

    Here's some info on a slide i caused last saturday on Mt. Tinemaha. Maybe others can learn from my mistakes. Or just remind folks of the risks.... This is what i mailed ESAC. Sorry it's long. I'm a horrible editor

    This is for the wet slide I caused and was caught in on 4/14 on Tinemaha. I got caught approximately at (1), escaped the slide somehow at (2) and the slide stopped at (3).
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	20190413_150501.jpg 
Views:	299 
Size:	1.21 MB 
ID:	279061
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCN0335.JPG 
Views:	299 
Size:	1.15 MB 
ID:	279062
    I had topped off on the Southern side of the summit ridge(I climbed the more Southern of the east facing gullies thinking it would be better conditions than the normal route, which has a more northerly aspect up high on the route). The other party had climbed the standard route and was already at the top, more in the Center of the ridge one gully over. This was already late(~12:15?) and even later when I skied (~12:30?)

    Earlier, climbing up the gully, I had minimal boot penetration in general Ė the S side of the gully had been swept clean down to the old layer by wind, and the N Side had some pockets of 1-4 inch deposit of wintery snow (some soft, some windboard). One large face that was more Southerly had fully gone the cycle with no deposits left and rounded grains. Almost no boot penetration when I climbed it. Was totally stoked and thought I had plenty of time since the clean side of the gully was more northerly and had such a hard freeze still.

    I got to the top of this gully at about 10:45, and only beyond that point at ~11.8k or so when I traversed below the final ridge to the S. Summit did I find any deeper snow, and nothing more than 1-1.5ft at most, other than the typical sugary snow around rocks. There was one section in this more northerly portion when I found some minimal wetness on the top layer sitting above the colder wintery snow below. I only remember this because for that one 5-10 minute section, the moist snow on top caused balling of the dry snow to my crampons, even with anti-balling plates.

    At the summit I asked the party in the other gully how the snow was. They said something to the effect that it was moist, but they thought it would be ok. I took the ďmoistĒ remark as a warning and based on the time I was already a little worried about skiing that side and aspect. But I thought it was manageable. I watched them ski from the top, go out of view in the next gully to the left and then re-appear 1000ft below through a notch on the ridge between us. My plan was to ski to the ridge between our gullyís and watch their tracks in that gully and maybe ask to join them. I thought even if there was a wet slide In my gully, Iíd already be on the relative safety of the ridge by the time it got going. I didnít want to ski the gully directly below me because it had rocks in it and I didnít know if it went. The only pictures I had were from last week and it was before the slides of April 8th on this site. Reversing the ridge to the gully I came up would have been great skiing, but I was lazy at this point and took the easiest path, and didnít want to lose more time. (But the laziness was probably #1 )

    I knew the snow at the top just below where I put on my skiís was windboard from checking it out. This was a steeper (low 40ís?) and closer to northerly aspect and the windboard lasted for another 5-10 turns until I got to a more N.Easterly aspect. I remember doing 3-5 (?) turns at full speed as I came closer to the safety of the ridge between the gullies. I think that section was now less steep (high 30ís?). The next stuff happened really fast, and I the details are as best as I can remember.

    I believe I was maybe 1-2 seconds away from the ridge, at high speed on the final turn going across the slope to the ridge, when I felt something and noticed snow sliding over the tip of my skiís. I remember thinking that ďmy sluff caught me, and I better ski out of itĒ. But I was confused because I related the ďsluff catching you experienceĒ to only wintertime/dry snow, and couldnít figure out how a wet slide could catch me when I was skiing so fast and traversing. By the time I completed that thought (and I Ėthink-- I tried to do something, but canít remember what), it was a full on river of snow, very much like white water rapids. I thought it was 2ft deep or so, thatís what my brain recorded, but Iím not sure. (BTW, If it was a wet slab, I didnít see any cracking in front)

    At that point I realized that: 1) I was caught, and 2) it was accelerating uncontrollably. It was a shocking feeling. On those thoughts Iím 1000% certain of my memory. By the time I had completed that thought, I looked downhill and saw the first band of rocks coming at me. So fast, and direct. This next part is truly a blur and hazy at best. Iíd guess it all happened in 1-3 seconds maybe less(?). I think I tried to self-arrest in the hopes of planning a ski pole through the snow to the base. I think this didnít work and I lost both ski poles at that time. I think I then rolled over to my right to try to get off of the slide. Iím guessing I was very close to the edge of the slide, and that I must have dug my hands into the non-moving snow, but I donít remember this at all. I do remember kicking my left boot in (at some point that ski was gone too, leaving that leg free and the other with one ski on), and this somehow stopped me. Oh, btw, I went over the first set of rocks while rolling over and was surprised that there was no pain. I think that the rocks were too parallel with the slope, and the snow that I was riding on was a buffer between them and I.

    I had stopped at a steeper section (low 40ís?) right at the choke and 4ft above the next set of rocks. The slide was 2ft to the right of my face and just kept going like a train. I remember that the sound really scared me at the time, but I canít remember what it sounded like at all now. It felt like it just kept coming from above and I kept expecting it to widen its path and take me over the rocks (when is it going to happen?). When it finally started to slow, I looked downslope and saw it gushing through the lower slope already 2000ft lower. Below the choke on this route it is fairly low angle (~30 degrees?), but it just didnít stop and ran out of site through the two notch chutes lower on the mountain.

    At that point I couldnít see any of my other gear in the slopes below me, and I couldnít see above me due to the steep roll-over. I got my ice axe out and put my single ski on my pack and booted up a bit to get above the roll-over to see if I could find my gear. I think it was at this point (maybe 5-10 minutes after the slide) that I saw the other party 1000-1500ft below come out of the other gully and crossed the slide debris coming into my view. They yelled something, but I couldnít understand what. I think I waved and said I lost my ski and resumed climbing back up. I think I assumed that even if they couldnít hear me, if they saw me climbing theyíd know Iím ok. Iím not sure at all thoughósuch a blur. Maybe I was in shock. At some point they came back into view with my ski and stood it up straight. Iím not sure if I kept climbing to look for my poles or not, but at some point I started down climbing until I got to the 2nd set of rocks. Btw, the snow climbing back up was either on the old slide path with very minimal (1 inch?) boot toe penetration or on snow that hadnít slid, which I think was 8-12 inches of soft snow that my boot cut through like it wasnít there until again you hit the crust with little penetration. It was fine w/o crampons since I had my axe.

    The area of the choke with the 2nd set of rocks was completely scraped clean by the slide. It was a mix of water ice for the most part, or rock bands with snow intermixed, which I assumed had rocks right under the surface. The rocks in the slide path were not down climbable, and the water ice looked thin over the rocks and already had water running own over it. (And as I edited this mail and look at the picture I canít help wonder if the rockband I skied through above where I was caught had rock warming and water running as well). I didnít want to down climb the water ice and have it break and fall w/crampons on. There was some easy (class 3/4) blocky ledges that made up the wall of the chute that I could down climb for 15-20(?)feet until I got to the hard slide path (snow again), so this is what I did. After I finally got through the choke, I was able to walk down to my ski 1000? ft. below me and then ski down with just my ice axe until I found my first pole (2000ft below the choke?) and my final pole maybe another 500ft below that. Not sure at all. I was just happy to have all of the gear and felt I was finally safe.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    In the sewers of Folsom
    Posts
    89
    Well, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of mistakes I made in there. One issue was that I had summit fever that day and instead of skiing down from the top of the gully (11,800) before my turnaround of 11am on what I knew were likely pretty safe conditions at that time, I decided to climb the ridge and ski off of the top onto slopes(different aspects) I hadn’t climbed or checked. The other thing is that even though the other party warned me that it was moist, I didn’t take the time to go over to the more direct easterly part of that gully and try to push it from the top. No idea why I didn’t do that. Done it a thousand times before. Not to mention that I chose to climb solo on this route (summit fever) instead of skiing up at Convict with a crew that invited me that day. Thinking we can control more than we really can: I remember after I stood up thinking “wow, I really must have made the right decisions that caused me to stop”. But on the long car ride back home, I went through it a thousand times – it wasn’t skill, it was just dumb luck: if I got placed in the slide at the start again 50 different times, on 49 of them I would have went over the rocks no matter what other thing I did. Too much speed, too powerful of a flow. I just got lucky with the 1 out of 50 on that day.

    Not really sure how bad the mangle potential would have been if I hadn’t had stopped. Seemed like the slide fanned out and thinned lower, so maybe no burial(?). And I’d guess I’d have gone over the 2nd set of rock bands with the same cushion between me and the snow as the first band(?). It’s spring so I was wearing my rock climbing helmet. Not sure if I’d had stayed on top and avoided getting churned in the slide with any leg/ligament damage(?). So maybe the fear that I had in this story was more in my head than in reality. But man it was scary to me then, and I’m trying to remember it that way so I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. I’m embarrassed that this happened and almost didn’t post this, but thought others might learn from my mistakes.

    P.s. I’m grateful to the other party for finding my ski and checking on me after the slide. Sorry about the rock, but glad you heard me yell. I was careful with my feet and hands, testing holds, etc., but my ski pushed a football sized rock off of a ledge when I leaned into the wall to grab a hand hold. That first rock dislodged the bigger rock below. And thanks to ESAC for all you do!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Squaw valley
    Posts
    2,602
    I'm not sure that you did a lot of things wrong.
    It's just a powerful reminder that shit happens and that it's dangerous in the mountains

    Sent from my Armor_3 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Squaw valley
    Posts
    2,602
    Quote Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post
    I'm not sure that you did a lot of things wrong.
    It's just a powerful reminder that shit happens and that it's dangerous in the mountains

    Sent from my Armor_3 using Tapatalk
    And if i remember the conditions that day, the snow was not consolidated.

    I think it's nice to say, if i didn't do this, i would be ok, but the reality is that sometimes, no matter how careful we are, we end up in trouble.

    See the post today with David Lama dying in a slide.

    Sent from my Armor_3 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    383
    Thanks for posting this Abe. These spring storms are pretty sketchy and hard to evaluate the risk.

    I will say, this year has been eye opening. I've been backcounty boarding for well over 15 years with only a few small incidents, but this year I or my group have had numerous incidents and close calls. I think it is mostly because there have been so many storms with not a lot of time to settle before the next one, yet we continue to get out and try to play it safe.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    150
    Damn, that's some scary shit. Glad you made it out okay. x2 thanks for posting.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Posts
    529
    Glad youíre ok, sounds super scary. Iím certainly not judging your decision-making; nothing you did sounds particularly foolish. Iím glad you posted, itís a good reminder that shit happens even when you think youíre in the clear.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    CA
    Posts
    1,828
    DAMN. Great post - thanks for sharing. +++++++

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Tahoe City
    Posts
    629
    It sounds scary as all get out. I'm looking forward to making some turns with you over the over the next months! I'll be evaluating my spring decisions with your experience in mind too.
    Like I told my last wife, I never drive faster than I can see, besides it's all in the reflexes.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    2,886
    Excellent post, thanks for sharing it. It's a great reminder of how subtle the difference can feel between a good decision and a deadly one.

    I just got back from a couple day trip in mostly stable but occasionally weird conditions with a partner who used the term "manageable" in a way that spooked me a bit once. We use that term a lot and I wonder how often it correlates with rationalizing a sketchy choice? No idea if that's applicable to you or if I'm projecting my own memory (not yet 40 hours old yet), but I'm curious what you think of the decision-making right after hearing the snow described as "moist" since you say you heard a warning there but thought it was manageable. Did you have a specific plan to manage it, or was it more a thought that it seemed like you might be close to unstable conditions but you didn't think it was quite there yet?

    Sorry for the awkward wording here. I've been analyzing my own decision-making and finding it very difficult to put all the little thoughts into words. I think that's easier to do when you can talk through it, but I'm questioning everything just now, including whether a discussion really gets to better decisions or just more confident mistakes. Thanks again for being willing to share the experience and dig into some of this. Very glad you're OK!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    In the sewers of Folsom
    Posts
    89
    Thanks to all for your comments.

    Jono, regarding your question: "but I'm curious what you think of the decision-making right after hearing the snow described as "moist" since you say you heard a warning there but thought it was manageable. Did you have a specific plan to manage it, or was it more a thought that it seemed like you might be close to unstable conditions but you didn't think it was quite there yet?"

    Well, I thought I had a plan to manage it. Which was 1) let them ski it first and see what happens, 2) ski fast and to the ridge, which I thought was a pocket of safety. In my experience, wet slides are slow moving and down the fall line, so you can either push start it from the top and see if it goes, or ski fast from pocket of safety to another pocket of safety(high point). So i really thought I'd be fairly safe even if it slid - by skiing fast and getting to the ridge. And the other thing was that even though I knew it was late, all of the snow i'd seen until then on the climb up (granted different aspects and/or wind exposure) were ok.

    On my trip this weekend, I talked to Sherpa1 about this and the more we discussed it, the more we thought maybe it was wet slab instead of wet/loose. He made the same comment about wet slides starting out slow -- how could it catch me skiing so fast? I think maybe the first set of rocks I skiied around may have had that same heating/water saturation of the snow around it as I found in the choke point, so maybe it was a wet slab that all released when i skiied over it(?). I really don't know, just a guess. The key reason I posted was just to remind myself and others like me that the risk is there...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Macao
    Posts
    1
    Great post - thanks for sharing. +++++++

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •