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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Mt. Warshington Great Gulf

    Lucky guy. Not just the guy with the open tib/fib and good friends, but also the guy standing on the rock island that just skied and bootpacked back up the line. Seems like a case of early season spatial variability. I certainly wouldn't expect someone that knew I would be skiing down to be hiking back up

    https://www.mountwashingtonavalanche...lf-wilderness/ - new and improved, with 20% more dork.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    “Open tib fib” is so brutal

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Fresh Lake City
    Quote Originally Posted by t-the-east View Post
    “Open tib fib” is so brutal
    I read his leg was tourniqueted for 4 hrs as well, which seems like a really long time. Brutal injury. Big kudos to his friend and the Blackhawk crew that was able to extract him

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2023
    I'm surprised there has been so little discussion of this incident as there are many aspects of it that are notable: 1) it occurred in the northeast which is generally viewed as lower risk whether rightfully or not 2) the victims took many common precautions such as performing stability tests and dropping a cornice 3) the false sense of safety that comes from watching others ski a slope. To me this really highlights the concept that there is no positive feedback, only negative feedback.

    One other important aspect that occurs to me is the inherent difference in avalanche problems inWinter versus Spring. When reading Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, I recall that the author describes most slab failures in Winter being due to overloading the slab and it failing due to excess weight. This type of failure is highly subject to spatial variability - as we saw with this incident - and compounded due to the presence of low snowpack which can easily hide weak trigger points.Compare that to the common avalanche problem in Spring - wet slides happen not when the slope is overloaded necessarily, but when its strength deteriorates to the point that it can no longer support weight on it due to warming. It seems to me that this would have a lower element of spatial variability and is overall easier to control your own destiny with.

    I suppose in a way I am still trying to rationalize accidents to prove to myself "I would never make that choice". As a newer tourer I am still feeling out how to get more comfortable with stepping out into bigger terrain. To me, especially as a CO skier, this really makes me want to be extra conservative even on lower danger days during Winter just due to the fact that there is greater reliance on the avalanche report and frankly some luck in not hitting a weak spot, versus Spring when I can just get up ass-crack of dawn and be at least sure of the conditions of the snow on the way up. I don't think I would hit any terrain like this even on a "low" day in Winter just because of those unknowns.

    Anyway, lots to takeaway from this one I think. Glad the party got out alive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Amherst, Mass.
    Some add’l discussion took place in a regional thread and in an avy-specific FB group.
    (And the two partners engaged in some impressively misleading social media campaigns afterwards.)
    But I do greatly appreciate an “outsider” chiming in, since it’s kind of like the proverbial Man from Mars.
    (Or rather, ski tourer from another region.)

    I agree though that this incident gave rise to relatively little [public] discussion.
    But I think the reason is that this incident provides little to discuss.

    Another skier had been flushed out of a glacial cirque on that same mountain only two days prior, same elevation, similar aspect, losing both his skis and both his poles, yet somehow walking (not skiing, given lost skis) away uninjured.
    Combine that with the reputation of the victim, exactly where the slab broke, and this qualifies as one of the most unsurprising incidents ever.

    The line is very popular in the spring. I ski it dozens of times each year. Sometimes half-a-dozen times in a single outing. But not in conditions like that. Not even close.

    Addressing your specific points:

    1. Northeast avy risk, lower thereof – Yes, in terms of geographical extent. Rounds down to zero in terms of skiable backcountry terrain. So avy risk is just not a factor in almost all backcountry skiing. Our below-treeline glades are truly immune to avy risk. Sometimes a little spot that could be considered at-treeline in VT will carry someone, with a fatality several years ago, but that is a rare exception. So avy awareness is not an element of a typical tour. (One year at our AIARE IRC, the trainer was surprised that we don’t wear beacons for glades, and we of course were surprised that he was surprised!)
    2. The victims did take many common precautions, but they were either worthless in that terrain or just an obviously false negative for snow instability that seem to have been undertaken merely to justify a decision that had already been implicitly reached.
    3. False sense of safety from watching the prior (solo) skier, yes in general. For this incident in particular, the video seems to show that the slab was entirely untracked. Perhaps that is just the light for the video and it really had been skied. Or perhaps the prior skier had poked around the edges, descending very cautiously, unlike the victim, who was skiing the section that slid no differently than with no avy concerns.

    Agreed on your other points.
    As for the “there but for the grace of God go I” factor, reviewing some recent incidents on that mountain:

    • February 1, 2021 = I never would have planned that tour on my own, but had I met the victim in the parking lot or skintrack, and started skinning with him, like I have before, some small chance I would have been persuaded to join him. Less likely given his general attitude, but I admit, I could have been lulled into making that mistake that day.
    • April 11, 2019 = I know that I would not have skied that line on that day because I told him not to ski it shortly before he did ski it. But I did not try all that hard to dissuade him. Partly because although it was taking on unnecessary risk compared to all the other options that day, it still stood only some very small chance (at least w/o the benefit of hindsight) of sliding (and killing him).
    • December 9, 2023 = Had I been skinning/skiing along the Cog, as I might have been doing that day, and have done many times, and I met those guys, my reaction to their plans to ski that line would have been, Wait, you’re kidding me, right?
    Mo' skimo here: NE Rando Race Series

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