A Bit Of Misadventure Near Rohr Lake Jan 05 14 - Page 4 - ClubTread Community

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post #46 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 12:40 AM
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Hi everyone. Thank you for all the good wishes and thoughtful comments. I agree with everything said and am grateful to everyone (especially Simon) that has helped turn this into a learning experience.

Here are the lessons that I have learned (so far) and I hope I can add something useful to the debate:


PRE TRIP PLANNING

1. Avalanche equipment: This was not discussed before the trip. Dorothy and I packed our avalanche equipment (we always do) but Dorothy dropped out at 6:30am on the day of the trip. Simon had no transponder, so my transponder wasn't much use.

2. Route planning: This was discussed prior to the trip however we could have chosen a route more appropriate to the conditions – Simon also suggested Mount Nutt and this would have been a better choice because I knew the SW slopes of the Marriott Basin are prone to slides.

3. Avalanche Ratings: I read the CAC bulletins every day but we didn't discuss the forecast until the morning of the trip. Also we focused more on the “moderate” rating and ignored the specifics of the forecast, namely “Snowpack testing on a NW facing slope at 2150m in the Duffey Lake area on Thursday produced easy sudden planar compression test results, and a RB2, whole block release Rutschblock result down 27cm on the late-December surface hoar, this layer now has an additional 15-25 cms since the Thursday evening storm.”

ON THE DAY

4. Cautious route selection: Once we reached the tree line the route possibilities were discussed. We noted the treed ridge to the left, however the route we actually chose was not as cautious.

5. Field observations: Temperature observations were made once we reached the alpine however the solar warming and pin-wheels (which I did observe) were not heeded. I was actually carrying a snow saw in my pack but forgot about doing a stability test.

6. Snowpack: I did not appreciate that a low snowpack does not necessarily mean a safe snowpack. Once we reached the alpine I had no problem with Simon's suggested route mainly because the slope ahead seemed to have a very shallow snowpack with lots of protruding rocks. I didn't notice any whumpfing or settlements but did notice the very powdery nature of the snowpack.

I do have AST-1 training, or rather the older RAC training (I did the course back in 2006). I now realize that I had become quite complacent and failed to follow my training. Doing the training and carrying the equipment does not mean you will make the right choices in the field. I intend to either re-take the course or at least do a refresher course.

Thanks everyone!
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post #47 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 06:44 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by simonc
Here's shot of the area taken by Alex G that Tim provided me a link to.
I echo everyone's comments, thanking you for your honesty. I also echo Sandy's comments about the Rockies snow pack being a LOT different than the coasts. Looking at that picture above, I wouldn't go near a slope like that in the AB Rockies unless I absolutely had no choice. And I'd have my hand on the trigger of my avalanche pack the whole way up... Of course we can all learn from each others mistakes - we've all made them!

One of the first lessons I learned was that a thin snowpack may inspire confidence because you can see the rocks under the snow, but it actually the worst areas for triggering slides. The closest call I had was in very similar terrain to the one that caught you except it was a steep, rocky gully.

One more thing that I haven't seen mentioned by anyone yet. Someone said you didn't have to carry avy gear because you often travel solo? That strikes me as a bit odd. What if you're travelling solo (and safe) and you come across a slide with victims buried? You will be helpless to save lives... I think if anyone's going to be traveling back country avy terrain they should at least carry a shovel / probe / beacon and have basic training. But this is just MHO of course!

Thanks again for sharing. Good discussion.
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post #48 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 11:11 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by simonc

CraigH, Tim has taken courses, I have not.
I have a decent amount of spring, summer & fall wilderness experience but I'm new to winter travel (although we have been doing local snowshoe trips for the last few years). Once we started venturing off the typical routes it was time to get some education.

Last winter my wife and I took the AST1 course and one of the things they taught was safe route choices. We spent quite a lot of time on that.

I don't know the area you were travelling in, but from looking at the pics the route you took isn't one I would have chose.

My suggestion would be to take one of the AST courses.

I hope this helps.

Edit: Just read TimG's post, I agree a refresher might be worth taking. I'm guessing the courses might have been updated. In other work related training I've found taking a refresher worthwhile as you often learn different things from different instuctors.
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post #49 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 12:53 PM
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I agree with a lot of opinions already mentioned. I took an AST-1 recently, and I definitely don't look at the snowpack the same anymore. A good online source for learning about this kind of stuff is the avalanche.ca online course. It's a good learning tool, but the AST-1 is recommended.I've made some bad winter-time decisions even after looking at the online course, but the AST-1 has definitely helped me re evaluate my decision making.

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course

I'm happy that no one was hurt, and I would definitely advise caution out there, this winter especially. These new storms will make things interesting for some time...

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post #50 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 01:10 PM
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Read this post 24hrs ago but forgot to post.

"Holy shit" [B)]

Good to hear noone was hurt.



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post #51 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
quote: I also echo Sandy's comments about the Rockies snow pack being a LOT different than the coasts. Looking at that picture above, I wouldn't go near a slope like that in the AB Rockies unless I absolutely had no choice.
One thing that should be clear is that the Duffey is not "Coastal". When I was doing my professional level exam for the CAA we did a couple of days on the Duffey. One of our evaluators had spent 17 years at Lake Louise doing avalanche control. On the first day, when his thermometer died in the -37C temperatures (this was December), he looked at the 63cm snowpit we had dug that was mostly depth hoar and facets and said "Have you ever seen anything like this before?" My answer was that this was actually a fairly regular occurrence on the Duffey, and it is. That is why a very significant portion of the people who have been involved in serious avalanche scenarios are trained professionals or apprentices from the Whistler area. The Duffey is normally an "intermountain" snowpack, but parts of the range are "continental" that is, shallow, way cold, and tender. The Duffey is rarely Coastal.

Also, for clarification, RAC and IRAC courses are not AST courses. We completely re-wrote the curriculum in 2007 because some research suggested that people who completed RAC or RAC-type courses were MORE likely to be involved in avalanches than "untrained" winter recreationists.

AST1 and AST2 are completely built upon terrain recognition, selection, and understanding "informed and systematic" decision-making by a group. Planning is a significant portion of the curriculum.

This has been a very instructional thread. Again, kudus to Simon and Tim for being so forthright and to the Clubtread community for it's civility and contributions...
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post #52 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 02:16 PM
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Thanks for posting and enlightening discussion!

Occurrence of an earlier avalanche in the same area (near Wendy Thompson Hut) may indicate that this is not just a freak incident, but a general problem. As pointed out already it will take a while to go away.

Report in the CAC database "2014-01-03 Marriot Basin - NW of Hut" http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/library/...-database/view. Skier-triggered, shallow snow, SE aspect instead of SW.

Pictures (zip file) here: http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/library/...4-2b7379c48c4f

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post #53 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by msulkers

Quote:
quote: I also echo Sandy's comments about the Rockies snow pack being a LOT different than the coasts. Looking at that picture above, I wouldn't go near a slope like that in the AB Rockies unless I absolutely had no choice.
One thing that should be clear is that the Duffey is not "Coastal".
Sorry - my bad! I didn't check a map and I'm from Calgary so just assumed it was coastal...
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post #54 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 02:41 PM
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Excellent level-headed discussions. Thank all. Much appreciated and helpful.
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post #55 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
quote:Sorry - my bad! I didn't check a map and I'm from Calgary so just assumed it was coastal...
Vern. No criticism intended at all. Our local recreationists, here on the Coast, believe the Duffey is Coastal. Just saying, if it quacks like a duck and sounds like a duck it might be a ....

As well, the admonition to treat the snowpack like a Rockies skier is spot on. It's rare to see someone take to cautious an approach in this part of the world...
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post #56 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by dougz


Wow, I really need to take an avalanche course..

I had no idea, for example, that Iago would be considered avalanche territory (I went with Karvitk in Dec).

Makes one think!

Glad you both are ok.
We did this trip on a cold and cloudy day... definitely more stable than where we have spring like conditions ..such as on this event.

Really got to watch out for the pinwheels... seen them before, so definitely an indicator. Saw these on Mt. Baker/Table Mountain last year.. on warm south exposure where snowslides were witnessed occurring around 11 am to 1:30 pm. Did not fully appreciate the risk of this trip...

K
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post #57 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 07:13 PM
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Worth posting on this thread: avy rating spiking to high/high on Saturday; all aspects storm snow and persistent slabs. Be careful out there.
http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/bulletins/latest/sea-to-sky

-Ryan
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post #58 of (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 10:24 PM
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true Ryan
Things are messy
thanks for staying neutral
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post #59 of (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 02:06 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by KARVITK

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by dougz


Wow, I really need to take an avalanche course..

I had no idea, for example, that Iago would be considered avalanche territory (I went with Karvitk in Dec).

Makes one think!

Glad you both are ok.
We did this trip on a cold and cloudy day... definitely more stable than where we have spring like conditions ..such as on this event.

Really got to watch out for the pinwheels... seen them before, so definitely an indicator. Saw these on Mt. Baker/Table Mountain last year.. on warm south exposure where snowslides were witnessed occurring around 11 am to 1:30 pm. Did not fully appreciate the risk of this trip...

K
What are pinwheels?
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post #60 of (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 06:52 AM
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