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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    Clipped...almost

    So this was me a few days back (skier #1) I made mistakes where you can't and got away it. We hear about avalanches enough but are usually a bit detached from most of them. Once in a while one hits too close to home. This one almost clipped me. My hope by posting this is to help us all be more aware and have that little red light flashing in your head when something doesn't feel quite right....and then for you to listen to the little red light.

    https://www.jhavalanche.org/eventDetail/event/38850


    My own analysis came up with a number of factors that contributed to the incident, some of them fractionally but as a whole came together to help it happen. I spend quite a bit of my ski time in the back-country including 14 straight days in the general area of the incident.

    I suppose I could get flamed for screwing up but I'm throwing it out there hoping the positives outweigh the negatives.



    Avalanche 2020 TNT … Hard slab failure above skier…self arrested (me)

    Heuteristic Traps and procedural issues : Failures to acknowledge or react properly

    Pre-plan’d destination/route…not taking what the Mtn would give when conditions had degraded

    Strong potential rescue group…. over confident

    Recognizing clues but not giving them enough weight…thought I could manage hazard (with ski cuts). Over- confident in that respect

    Familiarity, 5 runs on the slope in the past two weeks…every day is a new day… this HAS to be followed

    Not giving the overnight change toward hard slab enough respect and not acknowledging the hard slabs propensity of not responding to ski cuts strongly enough. ULTIMATELY this is the primary mistake (action) that created the incident.

    Willingness to take on more risk than I would willingly let others take ? ...probably (protection of others ? Some yes but not really here other than going in (cutting) first which ultimately did put me in position above that section of the slope.


    Ultimately skiing anything is a personal choice but still has mental/life consequences for others in the situation and in the orbit of my life.


    Take it for what you will...it was cheap lesson for me. I hope it helps someone make a good choice somewhere down the road.





    https://www.jhavalanche.org/eventDetail/event/38850

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    A LSD Steakhouse somewhere in the Wasatch
    Posts
    11,544
    I pass no judgement but am pretty damn stoked to not have to offer vibes to your friends and fam
    id tell you I learned from your mistakes and wont make them myself
    but only the latter can I be sure on
    glad your okay and able to spend another day on your passions or addictions in the mountains
    "When the child was a child it waited patiently for the first snow and it still does"- Van "The Man" Morrison
    "I find I have already had my reward, in the doing of the thing" - Buzz Holmstrom
    "THIS IS WHAT WE DO"-AML -ski on in eternal peace
    Yo poliassfuckers
    theres a special basement for your lame shit

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    3,479
    ^^What he said.

    Good work on the self-arrest and making that call in the critical moment. That seems like a tough choice compared to trying to ski out, which is more reflexive (for me, anyway). Did circumstances make that easier or how did that unfold?

    Also curious if I'm reading it right: were you the last of the group when you made that last ski cut?

    Thanks for posting this!

  4. #4
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    Oct 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by jono View Post
    ^^What he said.

    Good work on the self-arrest and making that call in the critical moment. That seems like a tough choice compared to trying to ski out, which is more reflexive (for me, anyway). Did circumstances make that easier or how did that unfold?

    Also curious if I'm reading it right: were you the last of the group when you made that last ski cut?

    Thanks for posting this!
    Skiing out was not an option, I was way too high up on the slope and would have been caught for sure. I continued my direction of travel but didn't have enough speed to get off the slab when it broke. I was also wearing an airbag pack but pulling it right away would have ensured that I got swept down the slope...I was over some rock and small trees and the drainage had a turn with a choke in it so attempting to arrest was my best option. Failing that I would have pulled the bag about 100 yards further down.

    I had already cut a portion of the slope that the group had skied. I elected to ski a different section of the slope that was still clean and was also a bit steeper. I figured I would hit it hard on my first turn cutting from there across the slope...did that and then made a turn downslope then hit it again....it fractured seconds later as I made my first turn on the descent. Under my feet it was only about 6" deep and i thought "I got this" my feet got swept out and I was thinking "keep your feet downhill" and had almost stopped when it felt like I got hit with a fire hose from behind...maybe 50' above me it broke way deeper...18". I really started picking up speed and managed to get my fist punched thru the bed surface and between that, digging in skis and getting super low and inline with the flow it passed over me...I was in the white room (my partners could not see me) for about 3-4 seconds and just barely hanging on. The flow diminished and it was over as quickly as it started. I got up and verified that my partners were ok...they were in good safe spots and that was it. We had one member about 300 yards downslope and around the corner so we had verification that no one else could have been caught and we skied out.

    It was fucking Gnarly, I would not wish it on anyone.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by wstdeep View Post
    It was fucking Gnarly, I would not wish it on anyone.
    Sounds like. Thanks for the extra detail!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    6,135
    Glad you are safe. While I appreciate all the details, without knowing your mindset or what clues you ignored, or mainly what your gut was saying: I don't know what to learn from this. And how much did it snow in the past X days? Were there other signs of slabs that day or on the avie report? Were you ignoring your gut or your gut and the avie report, or other skiers concerns? Not asking for a lengthy explanation by any means, just giving feedback that a clinical review is hard to put me in your boots and on slope and what you were thinking.

    Also you might be being a bit hard on yourself, although that may be a good thing if it keeps you alive in the future!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Not Brooklyn
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    Glad you're ok. I've been lucky enough to have a couple wake up calls without consequences, where the mountains let me know there were factors I wasn't sufficiently considering when making decisions about where and when to ski. This is yours. Take advantage of it.

    I think the rest of us can gain some humility from reading about your experiences too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    CA
    Posts
    151
    Great post analysis! Thanks for reporting knowing someone will flame. My only comment is that this appears to be an R1 D1 slide and that is nitpicking.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    31,013
    Quote Originally Posted by wstdeep View Post

    Avalanche 2020 TNT … Hard slab failure above skier…self arrested (me)

    Recognizing clues but not giving them enough weight…thought I could manage hazard (with ski cuts). Over- confident in that respect

    Willingness to take on more risk than I would willingly let others take ? ...probably (protection of others ? Some yes but not really here other than going in (cutting) first which ultimately did put me in position above that section of the slope.
    Have had this happen to me, knowing it would go, but jumping in to keep others about to launch from killing themselves.
    What was the base surface it ran on?
    Did you give it some whumpf jumps as you cut it?
    Props for punching through it to arrest.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by splat View Post
    Have had this happen to me, knowing it would go, but jumping in to keep others about to launch from killing themselves.
    What was the base surface it ran on?
    Did you give it some whumpf jumps as you cut it?
    Props for punching through it to arrest.
    The bed surface was probably a crust that formed on the surface about 5 days prior. We had accumulated about a foot or so of snow since that event and had been dealing with very predictable soft slabs in the days prior and after this had formed. Ski cuts or jumping on pillows were popping soft slabs under your feet on every run steep enough to slide. So it was easy to mitigate risk on anything we were going to ski. The night before the incident we had significant winds which stiffened surface conditions and created wind slab. This was noted getting down to the entrance to the slope we were going to ski. On my first ski cut entering I popped out a roughly 5" slab that propagated a bit and ran nicely cleaning out the middle of the slope which is a bit gully like. When I ski cut I generally jump a number of times as I cross the slope. After my partners skied the area that had been cleaned out I moved over a bit to a clean line figuring I would have the same result with another ski cut. I did get some snow to move but not much so I gave it another hard bouncing turn with the same result, I Then turned fall line and started down ...that's when it let go. The slab was about 100'x100' and I was pretty close to the middle of it when it popped. I wasn't ignoring the harder slab but just minutes prior had been able to get the slope to go just feet away and create a safe slope for my partners...I figured the same was going to happen where I chose to descend....Wrong. Ratings are a bit subjective (and I'll admit the pic from below does not look like much) but the slide ran about 800 linear feet total and was about 6-7 feet deep when it was running past the lower member or our group who was a fair ways down.

    Muted,
    Truthfully I felt like I was on full alert and tiptoeing carefully into the situation like I feel I always do. I failed by not giving enough weight to the change in slab type the winds had brought and the positive results from my initial ski cuts reinforced that was I was doing was working so I continued ....and then it didn't work.

    In general:
    I truly think one of the hardest things we need to grasp in avalanche risk management is knowing when to stop pushing. In most things in life we commonly push till we fail, re-group learn and then push on again. It has worked for humans thru evolution over and over again. We learn to ski by pushing until you fall/fail then get up and do it again...in a way we are hard wired in this manner. Even in avi risk management we learn to start easy and work progressively thru terrain while assessing conditions. In the end knowing where to stop the progression of more risk is the art of the deal because in these situation's failure doesn't always give you the opportunity to get up and try again.

    Hope that clarifies a few things and ads something to the discussion.
    Last edited by wstdeep; 02-03-2020 at 05:48 PM. Reason: for clarity

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Posts
    6
    Informative read, thanks for posting. Glad you're safe

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    1,022
    Thanks for sharing. I always have the most respect for people who are willing to admit mistakes and learn from them. All too often stories like this just get ... buried.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Methow Valley
    Posts
    950
    Yeah, to echo PD, thanks for sharing. It's really good to read these. This is not meant negatively at alll, I'm amazed and envious of the terrain familiarity that a bunch of the avid side country skiers like you have. I'm a weekend warrior who primarily BC skis so I've never had that experience and its be pretty cool to be that in tune with the day to day snowpack changes.

    I can see how that familiarity could lead into trouble in certain situations.

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