Editor’s note: We have more than 3,000 blog posts here at WildSnow dot com; good relevant posts get buried. I enjoy occasionally surfacing and editing one of these for new readers, as well as those of you who might have missed seeing. For example, this post outlining Bruce Tremper’s “Stone Tablets” of avalanche safety. Please leave a comment with your current take.
In the case of avalanche safety most of us practice a bit of situational relativism when it comes to rules. For example, you’re spring touring on firm nieve; perhaps you bring a smaller shovel, or gang ski instead of going one-at-a-time. Yet overall, if you want to stay alive in modern ski touring it helps to have a set of proven (not mythical) rules that up your odds.
Avalanche safety educator Bruce Tremper’s Avalanche Essentials book is a terrific little tome that condenses the conventional wisdom into 189 pages.
The book is profusely illustrated with numerous diagrams and real-life photos. A thorough index rounds things out, making it useful for research or as a fulcrum during safety classes and seminars.
And when it comes to rules Tremper doesn’t mess around. Check out his “Ten Commandments of Low-Risk Travel.” Here is the gist, with my comments in parentheses. Get the book for excellent exposition of each Stone Tablet.
Thou Shalt Go One at a Time. (The prime directive, if obeyed more often we’d see a significant drop in avalanche tragedies. We blog extensively on this concept.)
Thou Shalt Have an Escape Route Preplanned. (Virtually every minute you’re in avalanche terrain, think about how you’d escape a slide if escape is possible. Little things count; a favorite of mine is minding which direction my skis are pointed when waiting for other skiers or doing on-slope photography, um, see Commandment One…)
I wanted to get a taste of the hype and see how these packs shape up next to other simple one-compartment packs I’ve used for ski touring and mountaineering.
Simplicity. That’s the name of the game here. When you get a 70L pack in the mail, and you pick it up and it feels too light to be true, it’s cause for further investigation.
Public service: With all our emphasis here on avalanche safety, a reminder that deep snow immersion (tree wells, etc.) is a very real danger and in many ski touring situations might be of more concern than avalanche risk. Tricky issue, since skiing avalanche terrain best involves spreading your group out and ideally skiing one-at-a-time, but an entrapment in a tree well may require rapid assistance to prevent tragedy.
Two-way radio use is perhaps part of the solution. While skiing one-by-one, riders can speak with each other before, during, and after descending. If someone is skiing and you don’t see them or hear from them within a comfortable interval, another person heads down to evaluate. On a big backcountry run this doesn’t work for the last skier (when you’d have to climb to render aid) but it works for everyone else. Another reason to have one of your strongest and most cautious skiers be your tailgunner. What got me thinking about this is news from Whistler of a snow immersion death. Condolences to friends and family, so sad when an innocent day of fun shifts over.OLDER POSTS »