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  1. #1
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    "It could've been worse" TR - Y Couloir 1/28/06

    I would like to start off by saying that the purpose of this post is not at all about bragging (even though we got alot of pow pics - more on that later) or at all taking lightly DTM and I's trip up/down the Y yesterday or wanting sympathy, etc. I've wrestled in my mind multiple times over wether to post anything at all and in the end have decided that if I can share what I've learned (been reminded of) over the last 24 hours and at least 1 person out there learns from it and it saves them from a similar mistake then I have accomplished my goal with this thread.

    Anyway, skiing the Y in good conditions has been on my tick list for awhile. It is a 3000' couloir that holds a consistent 35-40 degree angle for almost its entirety and steepens to roughly 45 degrees for its last 2-300 vert. I've been waiting for conditions that I THOUGHT would provide optimal skiing in combination with a small amount of risk (i.e. 6-9" of new on a firm base) for few years now. After it got hit last week hard, the boot pack in and the desired amount of fresh with little to no wind during the storm DTM and I decided that yesterday was the day.

    We figured on at most 3 hours up it and an hour down (In reality it took us 5 1/2 hours due to more trail breaking and deeper snow in spots than expected). That should get us in and out before the mid to late afternoon's storm with snow and wind cranked up thus making it significantly more dangerous. We also had resided to the fact that when we showed up if some other party was in it, we would go touring elsewhere because we didn't want to be in the thing with others above us.

    On the drive to it, we had also discussed both our thoughts/feelings/concerns about it. Obviously, we decided to settle upon continually monitoring the snowpack and weather as we went up it and turning around immediately if either of saw something we didn't like or got a "bad feeling".

    Saturday morning dawned clear and cold. This "beta" photo was snapped from the typical parking spot for the Y.


    DTM just beginning the booting with the beautiful Lisa Falls behind him.


    Looking up the Y from the bottom of its apron


    DTM beginning to get his "boot" on


    From whence we came


    The occasional wallow was also encountered


    The whole way up we observed/evaluated/discussed the snowpack and safe zones for our trip back down. What we saw was that most of the new snow that we felt would sluff had already sluffed naturally during the previous day's storm and none of it had run further than 100' or so. No natural sluffs or slides occured on our trip up. Even at the very top which is a prime wind loading location, no wind drifts were present at all and there was only a few very small sluffs due to the increase in slope angle the last few hundred feet. I personally had a really good feeling that we had made the right call and were going to get to tag the Y in both safe and epic conditions.

    Top of the Y looking down at DTM gearing up. I was forced to stop about 50 vert. feet from the very top due to sugar snow around the rocks that guard its top.


    From the top all the way down there was only minor sluffing that was easily controlled with ski cuts and/or pulling off briefly to let them go ahead of you. All of the sluffs ran no more than 100 vert feet or so and were all slowing down. Even if one of these sluffs did manage to catch you, it would be no more dangerous than a wipeout in pow.

    Skiing conditions in it top to bottom were as anticipated - EPIC to say the least. Many,many faceshots were had from the very top to the very bottom as can be seen in the "too many" photos to follow.

    DTM in the pow


    more pow


    DTM making sure he gives the required "point" to the his next pow turn


    more DTM pow


    DTM in the blower


    DTM smaoothing with much more to go


    DTM turning and spraying the large granite wall


    Me getting my share in the lower part of the couloir


    Me again


    Up until now, with only 3-400 vertical feet left, we had hit all are decided upon safe zones, kept in constant communication and kept an eye on conditions around us (at least that we could see). Just before heading to our last safe zone, I remember saying to DTM, I don't need to ski this thing ever again; I've skied it safely in epic conditions. I was feeling the effects of powder euphoria and we both new we were very near to being done and were really enjoying our last turns in it before getting to the boney sections that guard its exit. I remember feeling relieved that we only had a few hundred feet to go and nothing dangerous what so ever was observed and was mainly concerned about neither of us snagging on one of the rocks as we exit the thing. The next few minutes would change all of that.

    I remember letting DTM ski to our last safe spot first (a small cave on skier's left). As I was approaching him, I looked at him and think I said I was just going to go down another 10 feet or so (as that was the main boney section guarding our exit) to take at look. I had one eye on DTM and one eye looking down. The next events ALL happened in a mili-second with no time to think about what to do, but just to react.

    I remember being only a few feet from DTM and seeing a dusting of snow between us, then getting hit in my upper body with sluff debri, everything was white (a deathly, greyish kind of white) by now, I could see nothing, I reacted by trying to dig in with my skis, but was immediately blown into the air.

    Obviously, at this point I had mentally realized that I had been caught in a slide/sluff from somewhere above. My first thought was I can't believe this is happening - not to me at least - where the fuck did the thing come from - we had been so careful -we were basically done with the thing. I remember getting slammed off of something initally (probably the last wall on skier's left before the couloir opens up into the apron), then gaining speed very rapidly. I bounced/flew off alot more stuff every which away (somewhere in here I covered my face with my hands to protect it), continued to gain speed and remember just having a helpless feeling of un-control over the situation what so ever. I just kept waiting for the ONE rock that would break something, knock me out or possibly kill me because basically whatever the slide/sluff wanted to do with me it was going to.

    As I was being pummeled and trying to survive any way I could I remember some of the thoughts in my head. First is that I was really, really scared. I felt like letting out a scream in terror, then felt like crying that my little girl possibly was going to be left without her daddy and then wanting to cry for "mommy" or anyone that could make this stop just like an infant child.

    My thoughts then turned back to the situation. Despite not being able to see jack-shit, I did have a rough idea of where I was. I had stopped bouncing and flying off of things, so I assumed I had tumbled to the apron. My next thought was about the trees at the end of it and that I needed to try and get stopped before them. Even though I was still hauling ass, I started trying to dig in with my hands and feet. Things began slowing down some. I could feel the slide slowing significantly now and dug in HARD. I stopped, but still felt the snow moving around and over me filling in every nook and cranny possible. Here comes the "concrete" I thought. Make a breathing hole for yourself and lunge up now dammit, lunge!! Things had been so uncontrollable violent up until now, that getting my avalung into my mouth wasn't even a thought let alone I highly doubt it could've been a reality. When I lunged, I felt myself pop up out of the snow and the debri was to my waste. My goggles were totally filled in and I couldn't see shit. I heard DTM yelling from above for me and immediately ripped my goggles off my helmet.

    I tried to calm down and regain control of my breathing as much as I could. DTM yelled are you alright. I gave myself a quick physical check. Somethings were sore (mainly my left quad), but nothing felt broken and I didn't find any blood. Nor did I feel nauseus or ever black out during the whole ordeal. I yelled back that I thought I was alright, but had lost both skis and both poles. I then moved to the side of the slide path and asked him to ski quickly down to me and grab any gear along the way if he saw something; he ended up finding one ski. We didn't waste anytime looking for the other ski or poles; we got the hell outta there.
    Last edited by Xover; 01-29-2006 at 03:42 PM.
    "... she'll never need a doctor; 'cause I check her out all day"

  2. #2
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    Thankfully, the "trail" out of there was very well consolidated and we were able to just hike out. Upon reaching the truck, I apologized to DTM and we discussed the incident some. We tried to see from the road exactly where the slide/sluff had come from, but flat light and light snow hindered our views. The only somewhat intelligent guess I can make is that the sluff/slide came obviously came from above us and most possibly off of the cliffs/rocks to looker's right because after viewing the debri pile not much snow had been entrained (in my opinion) but it had some speed to it.

    We both promised each other to take the next week and reflect personally about what had happened and then sit down and talk about it. What happened is not something I care to see ever happen again; not to myself, DTM or anybody.

    What I have personally arrived at so far is:

    1. Just because the risk is minimal due to the snowpack in what you are actually skiing, doesn't mean that the situation is a minimal risk situation. There are many feeder gullies that empty into the Y that I had all but dismissed as causing a problem to us where we were at within the couloir at the time of incident.

    2. Don't mess around with taking pictures in potentially dangerous situations. i.e. Minimize your time in potentially life threatening locations.

    3. Always pay attention to not only what is ahead and around you, but behind you as well. Especially when starting or stopping.

    4. Only ski really hairy places (i.e. the Y, Y not, NW Coulie of the pfeiff, etc.) under low av danger conditions. The current danger level for the day was rated at moderate with an increasing level to considerable as the forecasted storm moved in. Based on observations while skiing, I believe the danger was still at a moderate level for our location.

    5. Don't let powder euphoria and/ or the end of the run cause a lull in your focus on the situation.

    The above lessons are what I have to show for what happened yesterday as well as a severly bruised left quad. I may have some knee damage in the left leg as well, but won't know for sure until the muscle spasms calm down in my left leg so an accurate evaluation can be performed. Thanks again to good friends Trackhead and JWest for stopping by last night for their "informal" evaluations.

    The below two painted images are attached for reference sake.

    An overview of the whole thing.


    A closer view of the bottom 4-500 vertical feet.


    A remark from Bruce Tremper from long ago keeps resurfacing in my head, "The avalanche doesn't know or care if you have an AV I, II or III."

    Thank you for listening. Believe me, I fully realize what could have happened and thus how extremely lucky I am. I sincerely hope this helps someone out there avoid the mistakes I made yesterday.
    Last edited by Xover; 01-29-2006 at 03:32 PM.
    "... she'll never need a doctor; 'cause I check her out all day"

  3. #3
    tomw_n is offline hucksville, wasatch front
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    Holy shit - nightmare come true. Thanks for sharing something so freakishly personal and reliving it again. I think you were very unlucky to have been caught in it (sounds like you weakened something on the way down, which took a while to fully 'go'), but exceptionally lucky to have come out of it relatively unscathed.

    You do enough days in places like this and it's going to happen sooner or later. Good to hear you're OK.
    If I come off as smug or self-rightous or arrogant, well, it's because this is the internet and you haven't seen me ski. - Highway Star RIP

  4. #4
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    Christ man. Glad to hear you made it through ok.

  5. #5
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    that is gripping.
    Glad it turned out ok.

  6. #6
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    , Crossover! Way to be alive and pop out of that mess.
    That thing has always scared me. I've done it part way up, but thanks to your experience I have no further desire to go back.
    Welcome to the "lucky to be alive club."

  7. #7
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    Holy smokes! checked out the Y on the way home and saw the debris at the bottom....you be one lucky guy! those rocks do not have any give! hope there are no "next day pains" yabyum

  8. #8
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    Glad you guys are both alive and unbroken. I had a greasy sick feeling in my stomach reading this, thinking it would end with the number to your hospital room.

  9. #9
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    Excellent, if chilling, read, Xover. My stomach feels queasy after reading that.

    But what hit you? Was it a big sluff, or did a slab fracture?

    Heal up.

  10. #10
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    scary scary stuff......glad you made it ok, for your's and your little one's sake...

  11. #11
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    Wow man. Very glad you came out of that with no injuries. That was a hell of a slough that got knocked down from somewhere.

  12. #12
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    thanx for sharing that man. you have a way w/ words whether describing dawn patrol bliss or scary shit like this. glad you're ok and your lil girl still has a dad.

  13. #13
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    X Glad to hear you are alright

    X,
    Thanks for sharing your scary adventure.
    Glad to hear you are alright!
    Be safe out there.

  14. #14
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    yo buddy, glad you shared this experience. Don't let this happen again or I'll drive down there and give you a whippet where you don't want it! Really mang, can't be glad enough that a partner in crime is still in biz.

    Hang tough. I'll see you in the skin track soon.
    "In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair." -Emerson

  15. #15
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    Wow, glad to hear you're okay after all of that.
    "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow, what a Ride!"

  16. #16
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    Scary times, made me uneasy just reading it. Glad everything turned out well.
    Live To Ski!

  17. #17
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    thanks for sharing; i'm glad to hear you and your partner are OK, with only loss of equipment (sorry about that).

    i really want to thank you for sharing your story. it is important to hear these kinds of incidents as they create awareness and allow others to learn some lessons (i.e., what could have been done differently or noticed, perhaps). unfortunately, there is no equivalent of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" for skiing.

    there is so much terrain that i would LOVE to hit in mid-winter....but I resign myself to skiing it in spring when the snowpack is settled. may not be blower pow, but i feel much safer (and have been safe, to date - knock on wood).

    Xover - i appreciate your contributions to this forum.

  18. #18
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    Since this is an educational thread and all, I'm going to say it.

    The Y Couloir is one of the most dangerous lines in the Wasatch!

    For the following reasons:

    1. It's close to the road, everyone wants to ski it, everyone can access it, and everyone does.
    2. It's long and has a multitude of changing conditions over it's change in elevation. Temp, winds, etc.
    3. It's not really a couloir, it's more of a gully. With often times 270 degrees of exposure. A nice rock wall lined couloir, like say Main Chute on Baldy, you mainly worry about the snow you're skiing. In the Y, you have to worry about a ton more snow on the slopes that feed into it.

    I almost got flushed down it from much higher up, years ago. I had some weird feeling, stepped to the side, only to see a major sluff pouring through seconds later.

    A good friend of mine got flushed 800 feet about 6 years ago.

    The Y isn't benign. I'd say it's more dangerous than the touted S. face of Sup. Atleast on Sup you can see what's coming.

    Glad you're ok Xover. And I think talking about it will save lives in the future.

  19. #19
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    Damn FKNA chilling read glad your ok. Reflections 1-5 taken to heart. I would have to agree w/ you reguarding the avalung. In a sit. like you were in it would take a lot of conditioning to train yourself to get it into your mouth. I know someone w/ a metal detector if you are feeling better and conditions stabilize and you need a hand ski searching feel free to pm. A hand searching for the wifes ski in twin lakes in return is all I ask.
    PS
    stumps got a sweet pic of you on biglines potd.
    "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

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trackhead
    Glad you're ok Xover. And I think talking about it will save lives in the future.
    Ditto.

    On the Y, a quote from "The Chuting Gallery":

    "...bearing in mind that you will be exposed to avalanche hazards 100% of the time and getting caught in even a minor slide here could be fatal."

    -Astro

  21. #21
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    Good writeup, and thanks for sharing - glad to hear you're okay, and learned something from the experience. It'll certainly make me think twice about ticking it off my list in anything but the stablest conditions.

    stumps got a sweet pic of you on biglines potd.
    Thanks for the headsup! X - we need to do more of that kind of touring when you're all put back together

  22. #22
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    Great post. Glad everybody's ok.

    One thing I can't figure out is did you kick off a slide, have a slide drop from somewhere above you and wash you out, or was it large surface slough due to the angle/drainage nature of the slope?

    It sounds like it was slough in which case even if the avy rating was LOW the same could have happened.
    HI THERE!

  23. #23
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    chilling read, X. glad you are OK, and thanks for the very honest account of what you went through.

  24. #24
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    Christ, Matt. I'm glad you guys are okay. Thanks for sharing that...in order for this place to live up to its potential in terms of being a resource, we have to share our mistakes and misshaps.

    God Bless


    I vote for a hall of fame perch for any significant avy experience.
    "All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring."

  25. #25
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    Holy crap. Glad you're OK. That line sounds pretty sketch. It looks like the entire run is a terrain trap.

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