Avalanche night in Jasper
I just drove up to Jasper to do a slide show on decision making. There is so much behind the decisions we make in the mountains that it was an interesting topic. To make proper decisions in the mountains requires so much, but I believe the most fundamental is learning from experienced people and then to pay attention. If you are not paying attention, regardless of how much you know, things will happen. Constantly vigilance is key.
We are in the process of watching Dexter, a riveting show where Dexter is a forensic blood spatter analysist who hunts down and kills people who have escaped justice. To ensure that he never gets caught he kills by a very strict code. I think that as backcountry skiers we must also abide by a strict code. Learn a set of safety rules and obey them. Minimize exposure,Ski from the top, always stop in a safe spot, ski one at a time, ski cut…. the list goes on. Develop a code and follow it.
Instead of being surprised one day by an avalanche, I ski things always expecting them to release. I assume that it will and I always have an escape plan. I always ski cut, and then when I am skiing I try and always look back. Especially when I change features, every feature is different and although what I was just skiing was stable this new feature needs to be re-analysed. I keep looking around expecting things to release and ensure that I know what I will do if it does.
Yesterday on my way back from Jasper I headed up Grizzly mountain, I followed a very exposed skin track that headed up Teddy Bear face, lots of start zones above and no safe spots. When I caught up to the group I wondered whether they were clued in to the fact that their skin track was sketchy. They were completely exposed for over an hour, for no reason apart from that they did not follow the safety of the ridge. Not being someone who comes up and lectures people I do not know, I simply mentioned that I felt super scared on their up track and that I would go and set a track up the ridge.
Off and up Mt-Grizzly, 10th summit of 2010, where I tore up the grizzly chute, wicked fast turns down the chute with minimal sloughing, out skiers left onto an exposed feature where I cut off a size 1 avalanche, down 18cms on suncrust, and then down the bowl, great turns. I then headed back up and skied the upper face and headed home.
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