Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
This has to be our gear pick of the week, if not the month. Let’s just hope the NSA’s high tech internet surveillance doesn’t cause men in black to come knocking on my door to check what kind of explosives I’m cooking up in my kitchen.
But if the jackbooted guys fly their black helicopter into our yard, I’m sure they’ll understand once I show them the cornice cutter.
Dropping a cornice on the slope you intend to ski has got to be one of the best methods known for insuring you won’t trigger an avalanche yourself. In my experience, doing this in smaller couloirs can give you nearly 100% certainty that you won’t get involved in a large avalanche. (Though if the slab has a deep instability, you might have to drop a fairly big cornice for total certainty). What’s more, doing this WILL trigger the occasional avalanche. They’re fun to watch. Though mentioning this begs the point that cutting cornices requires a situation with no, zero, zilch possibility of any humans or property below you.
And therein lies the purpose of the bomb. You can cut a smaller cornice with a ski tail. A larger one can be cut with a rope. But rope sometimes has too much friction, and doesn’t seem to cut that well. The guys at Backcountry Bomb remedied that by providing 50 feet of 1/16 inch steel cable. This should slice through just about anything other than solid ice.
The only catch with cornice cutting is getting your cutter lassoed around the cornice. This can be somewhat tough if you want to knock off a fairly big chunk. My best tip on that is be sure the process of lassoing doesn’t make you tread out on a cornice that could break with you on it. And if you do need to get out there on the edge, also set up a rope belay. I’ve mentioned before that I carry a 30 meter hunk of 5 millimeter Spectra cord for just that sort of thing. Highly recommended if you’re planning on dropping cornice bombs.
WildSnow three thumbs up. Shop for it at the Bomb website, and if you see any black helicopters, get a ride for a few powder laps — after you drop some bombs.