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  1. #1
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    Stomping on a sawed cornice.

    I dont know what to say about this.

    This poster of the video insists this is safe, but I think this is insanity especially on a larger cornice. Where I come from if you MUST cut a cornice you use a cable not this insane method.

    What do you think...

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=990xqOEpOxM&feature=related"]YouTube- Cornice Break in Jackson Hole Backcountry[/ame]

  2. #2
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    I think a cord is preferable...

    That video looks... I mean we weren't there so we don't know what the snow was like, but what if the dropped cornice had propagated a fracture on the section of slope he skied onto? It wasn't particularly isolated... but who knows... maybe that wasn't a worry for him?

    Seems like he should have stood back more?
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
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  3. #3
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    Well it was Theo Meiners so i would tend to give benefit of doubt but there's no fucking way I would do that. Did that answer your question?

  4. #4
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    Also notable that the fracture starts at his skis and has nothing obvious to do with the block he cut. The block stays with the cornice as the cornice falls. Spooky, and clearly not what he intended.

    It does suggest that given a fresh and incomplete failure of a cornice that you might be able to drop the rest of it by trying to restart the fracture line.... still a recipe for trouble, I suspect.

  5. #5
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    yeah i agree with all of you.

    i dont really like the armchair QB thing, but this youtube poster is basically telling people this is controlled and safe as a way of cutting a cornice...I'd have no problem with it if they said that it was a mistake, or not the intended result. People make mistakes but they cant be learned from if they are defended as the right thing to do...

    I just think it's shit like this that makes the dumbasses in the sidecountry do the shit they do. It's a 5 star video and the guy who posted it is saying it's totally safe and controlled even though the cornice breaks under Theo's feet and drops him onto the prone slope. Yay for safety and control....

    Someone's probably watching this right now thinking..."I should do that at the top of old man's". It's just a really bad example I think. That cornice was relatively small but there are some cornices (like say the one over china wall in the vail sidecountry) that I literally would not walk within 20 feet of the edge when its big.... let alone stomp on it.

    in order for this to be a safe way of cutting cornice, you need a secure belay anchor. this reminds me of the infamous east vail helmet cam of the guy jumping repeatedly on the roll at the top of EV while holding his friends hand or ski pole or something as an 'anchor'.....

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    ...there's no fucking way I would do that...
    X2.

    45678

  7. #7
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    You can tell when it happens that he is completly surprised and wasn't expecting that. You can also tell he doesn't wind up in anything resembling a safe zone.

    However, on small cornices with definite safe zones to the sides, something similar can be done safely.

    I triggered a slide this fall, heres a pic.

    [IMG][/IMG]

    I couldn't figure out a great way to drop in around the cornice since the coverage wasn't great up on the shoulders where there wasn't much cornice.

    I started cutting it with my pole but that wasn't doing much, and I realized I could just push my way out on to the cornice and ski off onto the safe zone before the cornice even hit the snow below.

    I cut away a bunch of the cornice with my pole, besically a lot of the stuff that was between me and the safe zone that would have been breaking around me, then I went for it.

    It was actually really easy, very fun, and I think pretty damn safe. I never even touched a part of the cornice after it started to break. I had a bit of momentum, and landed to the side of the break and was in the safe zone, crouched down, edges dug into rock, by the time the cornice landed, looking over my shoulder just in time to see it trigger a little slide.

    As I was getting set up to do this, I kept thinking to myself that it was a little crazy, but I was confident it was safe and it worked out fine.




    I think the right situation for something like that to be a good idea is pretty rare though. This was early season, so the snowpack was thin, the cornice was small enough that I could cut away the snow uphill of me before I drpped in, I could clearly see where the ground started behind the cornice, and I knew the safe zone wouldn't have enough snow in it to slide or pull me anywhere, but would have enough to allow me to ski into it quickly.


    Also, I realized its hard to see in that pic, but there is actually a much more defined high flat spot on that shoulder than it looked like in that pic




    Just remembered, I've also seen a bunch of people stomping cornices, using a flick lock pole that their buddy is holding on as a lifeline, and I just shake my head at that because the flicklock mechanism is not something I'd trust my life on to hold me up without failing.
    Last edited by leroy jenkins; 03-04-2010 at 11:10 PM.
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  8. #8
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    that guy is lucky.that is a classic video of why cornice cutting should not be encouraged.you never want to ride a cornice. My opinion is the only reason to cut a cornice is to confirm what you already know. When you head up to ski a line you should already have a pretty good understanding of what conditions should be. If there is an easy cornice to cut or stomp go for it. Use it to confirm conditions. Personally I get out on the slope to confirm with a shovel. you can get away with it on small cornices, make a mistake like this on a massive overhanging cornice and you will get burnt. My take is leave cornices alone unless they are newly formed, soft and small. 80' of rope is alot more usefull than a cable in the mountans.
    off your knees Louie

  9. #9
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    That was dumb. Is that guy TEACHING others this "technique?" OMG!!!

    I treat cornices as if they were land mines. Don't play with them.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by leroy jenkins View Post
    [IMG][/IMG]

    ...I realized I could just push my way out on to the cornice and ski off onto the safe zone...
    Um... would you mind pointing out what you're calling a "safe zone" on that pic?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puffin View Post
    What do you think...
    This is NOT safe. He clearly did not intend to end up on the slope as he released a slide, and the cornice clearly broke off behind where it expected to. I don't care who he is, that was dumb. It was obviously a little touchy out there.

  12. #12
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    This is not proper cornice cutting technique. Period. This is a great example of why the practice of cornice cutting should not be pushed without some serious training and understanding of the hazards and having a strong set of rules when cutting cornices.

  13. #13
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    im not the be all end-all of backcountry knowledge. i got about 10 years out there, and i still learn all the time. If you haven't already, make a youtube account to rip this video poster a new one. he's telling people this is how it's done.

    total fucking jackass that could be responsible for someone doing this with fatal consequences.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorty_J View Post
    Um... would you mind pointing out what you're calling a "safe zone" on that pic?
    Yea, there was more of a flat spot there (lookers left, you can see my tracks) than it looks like in that pic, but most importantly, it was october and in the safe zone up on that shoulder, there was about 4" of snow on tundra and rock, and barely any snow in the cornice above. Even if the whole thing had broken all around me, I was already dug in just fine by the time the cornice landed and would have been just fine.


    Love the internet quarterbacking though.
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  15. #15
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    Why cut a cornice instead of just jumping off it?
    Start back 15ft, skate for some speed so you aren't standing near the edge for more than a moment, backflip. Or just do a small straight air but seriously, if you can't do a 10-15ft straight air to a steep powder landing shouldn't you leave the backcountry to others while you work on your snowplow?

  16. #16
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    I think I might prefer this method



    From Morrell Mtn near Yurtski

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by leroy jenkins View Post
    Yea, there was more of a flat spot there (lookers left, you can see my tracks) than it looks like in that pic, but most importantly, it was october and in the safe zone up on that shoulder, there was about 4" of snow on tundra and rock, and barely any snow in the cornice above. Even if the whole thing had broken all around me, I was already dug in just fine by the time the cornice landed and would have been just fine.


    Love the internet quarterbacking though.
    Not quarterbacking at all... I looked at that picture and all I saw was a steep slope, overhung by a cornice that looked like it had a lot of convexities... I was asking you to explain it to me because I couldn't see it.

    Now you've explained it and I know.

    Go long!!!

  18. #18
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    a little more information

    i know the individual who dropped that cornice, personally, and can perhaps shed a bit of light on the situation. there clearly is some speculation in this thread on what is being demonstrated here, and there are some things that are not evident in the video that i can point out that may shed some light on the situation.

    in the end, you will either continue to think this unsafe or may consider using elements in your backcountry slope control work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Puffin View Post
    This poster of the video insists this is safe, but I think this is insanity
    puffin: thanks for linking to this and starting the discussion. your posts seem (to me) a little heated, but i'll try to give a level response.

    first off, the individual featured in this video has about 30 years of experience....on that slope. i am not suggesting that experience is not to be questioned. i am only pointing out that he was not going in blind. also, he knows the local snowpack by seeing (and skiing) conditions on this particular slope daily.

    it is also a slope i am rather familiar with.

    the slope is a frequent destination for lift riders and sees considerable winter traffic.

    a cornice typically forms, presenting at least two hazards:
    1) that an individual less familiar with the zone could inadvertently have it break from underneath them while they think they are on solid ground;
    2) that at the wrong moment an unlucky skier could have this drop on them from above.

    while all "safe" zones are relative, the area toward the camera has no cornice, and there is much less snow that could get entrained from above. Also (again relative), there is a small "rib" on this slope where slides would tend to break skier's left -- and down the fall line.

    Quote Originally Posted by Summit View Post
    That video looks... I mean we weren't there so we don't know what the snow was like, but what if the dropped cornice had propagated a fracture on the section of slope he skied onto? It wasn't particularly isolated... but who knows... maybe that wasn't a worry for him?

    Seems like he should have stood back more?
    summit: from what i know of this particular day, soft-slab instability was more the issue (vs deeper and/or hard-slab instability). the risk of propagation, particularly to an area above the part of the slope he wound up on (highly calculated) was minimal, though the probability never, ever goes to 0. he wanted to ski off of it. it wasn't going to go, otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Puffin View Post
    i dont really like the armchair QB thing, but this youtube poster is basically telling people this is controlled and safe as a way of cutting a cornice...I'd have no problem with it if they said that it was a mistake, or not the intended result.
    i'm not sure where you see that the video tells people to do this exact thing. i guess i missed that part. in *this* instance, *this* person cut a cornice safely. it definitely was not a mistake.

    what was not in the video is the method used to prepare the cornice. to do that justice, you should probably speak with the man himself. his contact information is easy to obtain.

    he has a method of doing stair-step cuts designed to let him cut a small portion, which will trigger a bigger reaction, but give time to ski off. there is risk in everything we do, and this is certainly not suited for all cornices, all slopes, and all conditions, but it definitely works.

    Quote Originally Posted by puffin
    I just think it's shit like this that makes the dumbasses in the sidecountry do the shit they do.
    no judgment from me here, but i will say that people who learn their control work from the internet are, well, getting what they pay for.

    Quote Originally Posted by puffin
    Someone's probably watching this right now thinking..."I should do that at the top of old man's".
    what was used on this cornice and on this slope may not apply to "old man's" (not sure where this is). had he dropped a charge on this slope in a known trigger point would not imply that it is best to drop a charge at the same point on something near your home base.

    only you can decide what is safe to approach. perhaps you might think differently knowing that where he is standing (and further toward the camera) is solid ground.

    Quote Originally Posted by puffin
    in order for this to be a safe way of cutting cornice, you need a secure belay anchor.
    respectfully, i don't think you can determine what is safe from this one angle and short video. he has prepared the cornice to break in a sequential manner, is on the edge of it, where it starts to pull away from the slope, and has his skis pointed to a (not 100% but relatively) "safe" zone.

    i do agree that a belay can never hurt, but remember he wanted to ski off to the side.

    the cut was done as a demonstration, and also for the safety of the many skiers who came down after this. he knocked down the cornice when he knew he could control it, thus making it less of an issue for everyone else (later that day and the rest of the season). in the process, he also essentially "dropped an avy bomb" on the slope.

    Quote Originally Posted by leroy jenkins View Post
    You can tell when it happens that he is completly surprised and wasn't expecting that. You can also tell he doesn't wind up in anything resembling a safe zone.
    leroy:
    you proved to be sensitive to "internet quarterbacking" in this very thread, yet you did the same thing. i can understand and appreciate your comment, but know that while you had MUCH more information (snowpack history, better understanding of the subtle contours of the slope you were on, and an understanding of your plan which you shared with us (but the video did not have a chance to share)), your picture did not convey as much. the same is true of this video.

    you say "he is completely surprised and wasn't expecting that" when he is expecting exactly that. you also can "tell he doesn't wind up in anything resembling a safe zone". i respect that it may not appear that way to you, but you might have a different point of view (or you might have the same one) if you saw the slope in question. in person.

    Quote Originally Posted by leroy jenkins
    However, on small cornices with definite safe zones to the sides, something similar can be done safely.
    this was a "known" cornice (forms routinely) with a safe zone. i rarely see any "definite" safe zones anywhere in the mountains, but that's just me.


    Quote Originally Posted by BFD View Post
    that guy is lucky.that is a classic video of why cornice cutting should not be encouraged.you never want to ride a cornice. My opinion is the only reason to cut a cornice is to confirm what you already know. When you head up to ski a line you should already have a pretty good understanding of what conditions should be. If there is an easy cornice to cut or stomp go for it. Use it to confirm conditions. Personally I get out on the slope to confirm with a shovel. you can get away with it on small cornices, make a mistake like this on a massive overhanging cornice and you will get burnt. My take is leave cornices alone unless they are newly formed, soft and small. 80' of rope is alot more usefull than a cable in the mountans.
    BFD, i agree with much of what you say, but i'm not sure this is a classic video of why one should stay away.

    you might find this interesting:
    * he already had a pretty good understanding of what conditions should be.
    * the cornice was "easy to cut or stomp"
    * it was used to confirm conditions

    if it sounds familiar, it's because you use the same tactic (so you say). it's not universally valid, but it can be a valuable tool for those who know how to use it.

    again, more information on what was going on might cause you to change your opinion (or might not).

    if you leave the cornice, you can still get taken out from above while digging your pit or while skiing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shorty_J View Post
    This is NOT safe. He clearly did not intend to end up on the slope as he released a slide, and the cornice clearly broke off behind where it expected to. I don't care who he is, that was dumb. It was obviously a little touchy out there.
    see above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Puffin View Post
    im not the be all end-all of backcountry knowledge. i got about 10 years out there, and i still learn all the time. If you haven't already, make a youtube account to rip this video poster a new one. he's telling people this is how it's done.

    total fucking jackass that could be responsible for someone doing this with fatal consequences.
    puffin, i think you are firing yourself up a bit here.

    all i see for a description is "Theo Meiners executes a controlled cornice break in the Jackson Hole backcountry." i missed the part where he is telling the world how it's done. you are making a rather large leap from one demonstration to "this is how you should do it."

    personally, i think what is cool and rare about this video is that it shows the fracture in slow motion and exactly how and where it breaks away and slides downslope. nothing more, nothing less.

    theo has a ton of knowledge that he shares freely, culled from three decades as a backcountry professional. i hope he publishes more of his thoughts on cornice cutting, as it's something he deals with on a regular basis opening up terrain ever spring in alaska. for the past 2 years he has been quite consumed with the paper he co-authored and presented at the last 2 ISSW sessions (whistler & davos) on techniques to use WHEN captured.

    i hope this helped answer some questions while -- if i was successful -- steering clear of emotional reactions. i think discussion of these kinds of things is valuable. it's easy to fill in the blanks with worst-case assumptions where it is absent, and there is much absent from the camera angle and from everything that happened before the 20 seconds of action in this video.

  19. #19
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    Along with the cornice he enters the slope with his BD saw on the lower end of his BD pole, saw blade in hand. I guess the upper half of the pole was under his pack shoulder straps.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hohes View Post
    Along with the cornice he enters the slope with his BD saw on the lower end of his BD pole, saw blade in hand. I guess the upper half of the pole was under his pack shoulder straps.
    I thought it was just a probe pole with no saw.
    e.g. remove pole handles and one basket, screw together and start poking the cornice.
    Problem with that method is if there really is high hazard, you end up being on the cornice while cutting of your small piece.

    I think upallnight nailed a lot of it. - Its a known slope, fairly rated by the daily forecast and his experience as a local guide and snow expert for that season, and obviously expected to be stable based on them being up there in the first place (and clearly stable after it handles that huge cornice release)

    What I would disagree with is that he expected that much of it to break loose behind him.
    But, he was in the right location to knowingly ride it out to the right.
    That was the cool part. If you are going to do something like that, think about your exit and where it might break and travel.
    Much like a ski cut.

    I also am not sure he was doing cornice control work. - that cornice grows all season long and I'm not sure anyone feels the obligation to nock it down for public safety.

    Finally, to me it looked like a class. A lesson. A lecture.
    An abbreviated and quick demonstration of cornice cutting in theory.

    When he is cutting cornices in AK, I really doubt he is standing on the cornice and poking it with a probe pole.
    Pretty sure he would use a rip cord or some splosives if he really needed to cut a big chunk off above a really suspect slope.

    Cool video.
    Great example of cornice breaking behind you.
    Sweet quarterbacking.
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  21. #21
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    The graveyard is full of experts.

  22. #22
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    Looks to me like it went bigger than he thought it was going to, but he was (correctly) pointed at his safe zone.

    I think the most important point here is the difference between doing this in a "known" area versus somewhere "unknown". Cornice stomping is a pretty routine part of avalanche control.

  23. #23
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    I watched a video of someone cut a cornice have it break behind him forcing hm down the slope than ending up sprawled on the slope.
    the individual featured in this video has about 30 years of experience....on that slope
    Yes and it still broke bigger than he thought and took him down the slope All the experience told him was that the slope was low enough angle he wasn't going much further.
    that an individual less familiar with the zone could inadvertently have it break from underneath them while they think they are on solid ground;
    isn't this what happened. Yes he choose a spot where the cornice was supported still he was forced onto the slope.
    if you leave the cornice, you can still get taken out from above while digging your pit or while skiing.
    I really do not know what you are saying here. That we should cut all cornices as they are a threat to us on the slope? Personally my experience is unless they are actively loading or warming they really are not a threat. If you choose to walk out on them they become a problem. Personally having fallen through a cornice more than once I try not to mess with them.
    Core Shot I believe there is a saw involved. I think it would be very difficult to cut a cornice using a probe. Also I really doubt he will use this method to cut cornices in AK. Big differnce from that cornice and one that has been forming all year in a place that gets 30' of snow. Also the Valdez heli ops do not blast.
    Cornice stomping is a pretty routine part of avalanche control.
    I agree with this but personally I do not try to avie control the BC. But choose to ski slopes when the conditions are safe. Also when using cornices as part of your avalanche control work I would think you cut them with each storm or wind event to keep them to a manageable size.


    bring the saw
    off your knees Louie

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by BFD View Post
    ...it still broke bigger than he thought and took him down the slope.

    ...isn't this what happened. Yes he choose a spot where the cornice was supported still he was forced onto the slope.
    I respect everything that upallnight is saying, as it is clear that there are details of his familiarity that are not conveyed by the video. BUT, the two above statements have been echoed by a few people, and it appears to more than one person that he got more than he expected when the cornice broke. I believe we have all come to that conclusion based on where the cornice broke, and his body language when it happened (... he wasn't looking down hill when it broke, fighting to keep balance, and ending up on the slope below partially on his side).

    To me, the fact that a known slope in known conditions can surprise you is exactly why I don't think this is good technique to use. That was the nature of my coments.

    Do you still disagree with me? (I'm asking a serious question, not trying to be a douche). Thank you for shedding more light on the situation... it makes this discussion more meaningful.

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    I tend to agree with the last two posts
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

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