Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
Finally heard from Hamish again (the guy who’s trying to climb all the Colorado 14ers in one calendar winter (2005/2006). He’s doing well — at about the pace I expected considering winter weather and climbing difficulties. Winter fourteeners can be tough — a lot tougher than most people realize. The weather can be arctic, snow conditions vary from bottomless sugar to icy boilerplate, the days are short, trailheads are farther from the peaks.
You’ve got to admire Hamish for what he’s done so far. Cheer him on. More, he’s getting good use our of his backcountry skis with Dynafit bindings, so more power to him! Skis rule as tools for efficient winter climbing — but you have to know how to use the things, and have the correct setup. Sounds like Hamish is covering all that.
On a somber note, looking at recent accidents it is becoming all too obvious that the key with snow avalanches is simply not to get caught in them, as the likelihood of death or grievous injury is all too high if you take a ride.
To me, this means those of us in backcountry snow culture need to rethink our tendency to assume we can play with the concept of getting caught in a snow avalanche, so long as we have a beacon, shovel, etc. In other words, would you drive a car differently if you knew that 4 out of 10 accidents would kill you? That’s about what your odds are with avalanches.