Annual Spring Skiing Rucksack Remodel

Post by blogger | May 23, 2011      

Nearly every spring, I have fun redeveloping my super-lightweight backcountry skiing corn harvesting kit. This year’s iteration in ultra low mass mode:

Spring backcountry skiing gear.

Ultra lightweight spring ski mountaineering skiing gear. Click to enlarge

I’m considering this the “non skin-out” weight, more what my pack would weigh if I was booting on a warmer morning. Sort of from top, and left to right: My trusty carbon fiber poles, cobbled from some Solly alpine poles, 15 ounce for the pair. K2 Wayback 167 cm, legacy model, one ounce lighter per ski than current model and no rocker, sometimes I like ’em better, sometimes not, 125.4 ounces (pair) with Dynafit Titanium toe and TLT heel, no brakes.

Generic goggles in soft case, 3.9 ounces. Regular skins, nylon, 16.8 ounces pair. Puff jacket in green stuffsack, 14.3 ounces, also carry a light fleece pullover that is usually worn so not included in pack weight. Cilogear 30 liter Worksack backpack, 38 ounces, a bit heavy but will never tear or otherwise self destruct as super lightweight packs may do when pressed into service for rock scrambles or bushwhacking.

Sunglasses in black case, I’m still using the Smith Trace at 3.8 ounces with two sets of lenses, one dark and one amber. Below sunglasses case is Canon Powershot SD780, not my favorite camera but it does have an optical viewfinder, shoots HD vid and only weighs 4.6 ounces (no manual mode, groan). Medium weight fleece ski cap, 2.3 ounces. Forlorne looking item below ski cap is polypro balaclava, I never go anywhere without it, 1 ounce. Overmitt shells (mostly for emergency use), 6 ounces. Satphone Iridium in case, 12.7 ounces. Proverbial plastic drink bottle, 1.7 ounces. Arva titanium carbon-shaft shovel, one use only, 13 ounces.

Can’t forget the headlamp, as spring starts around here = early starts in the dark. But no need for anything huge, e.g., any of the smaller BD headlamps work well. My current one weighs 3.1 ounces.

Sunscreen/chapstick, 1.3 ounces. Sun hat,, 3.1 ounces (modified with chin string and outside band cut off). Rain shell, OR Helium, highly recommended for a low mass shell at 7.9 ounces. Repair & first aid kit for backcountry skiing, 14.7 ounces (includes multi-too, compass, etc.). OR Omni gloves, 2.6 ounces.

Water, minimum is about 32 ounces for me, double that for a bigger day. I left it out of the overall calculation because the exact amount is optional. More, on spring trips I’ll sometimes carry a smaller amount and add melt-snow during the march.

Food, I go light. Some gels, a bit of chocolate. For a bigger day 8 ounces of that stuff seems to do it for me, or a few extra gels just to be safe. But let’s say 8 ounces.

Optional backcountry skiing gear not in photo: B&D ski crampons with biner, 9.8 ounces. Black Diamond Tracer Helmet, 9 ounces. FRS radio Motorola (uses AA batteries, a bit large but very nice, abuse tested on Denali), 5.2 ounces with lithium batteries. Homebrew skinny skins for long flattish approaches, 6.4 ounces pair (carried along with regular skins if deemed necessary).

Carbon poles, non adjustable: 15 oz.
Skis: 125.4 oz.
Goggles: 3.9 oz.
Skins, regular width: 16.8 oz
Puff jacket, down: 14.4 oz.
Rucksack for backcountry skiing: 38 oz.
Sunglasses: 3.8 oz.
Camera: 4.6 oz.
Ski cap: 2.3 oz.
Balaclava: 1 oz.
Overmitts: 6 oz.
Headlamp: 3.1 oz.
Satphone: 12.7 oz.
Water bottle (no water): 1.7 oz.
Food: 8 oz.
Shovel: 13 oz.
Sunscreen: 1.3 oz
Sun hat: 3.1 oz
Rain shell: 7.9 oz
Repair/First-aid: 14.7 oz

Total 238.4 ounces, 14.9 lbs, 6.75852631 kilograms — quite nice for a backcountry skiing load including skis and poles!

Shop for K2 backcountry skis here.


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57 Responses to “Annual Spring Skiing Rucksack Remodel”

  1. Frank K May 23rd, 2011 11:53 am

    Cue the probe police in 3,2,1…

  2. Jim May 23rd, 2011 12:29 pm

    In Sierras crampons (BD contacts), and ice axe (BD ultra) are a must.

  3. Jim May 23rd, 2011 12:52 pm

    Lou, Could you discuss the probe issue. I’ve started leaving mine behind in spring especially solo. Whippets seem a viable substitute along with a good modern beacon.

  4. Ed C May 23rd, 2011 1:05 pm

    What is spring? You ever use Verts Lou?

  5. DC May 23rd, 2011 1:13 pm

    How is a dyneema pack that porky?

    14 oz seems like a lot for a FA/repair kit.

    Could probably get a lighter puffy.

  6. Lou May 23rd, 2011 1:23 pm

    DC, the Dyneema pack isn’t really super light, it is just super durable for the weight so it can be made slightly lighter but 100% reliable. Also, mine has all the straps added, camera pouch, ski lash strap. Repair kit could be lighter, but I keep wanting all the stuff in it. Yeah, I could probably lighten load a few ounces with lighter repair kit, no satphone, lighter puffy, but in this configuration I’m not trying to go SUPER light, just comfortably light and with plenty of gear so I’m not being a total gumby

    I’ve been arrested by the probe police several times and booked. I carry one when I think there is much avy danger, all winter and sometimes in spring, but truth, I did a bunch of beacon drills using a ski pole as a probe and did just fine, just not as good as a longer probe for super deep burials where, let’s face it, the victim is deceased anyway… frankly, in the spring on isothermic snowpack I’d rather my partner had a satphone rather than a probe, if there is a choice (grin). Bottled oxygen and a defib unit would be good as well. As beacons get better and better, the probe is still useful but less and less critical as the “cone of inaccuracy” gets smaller during the pinpoint.

    Agree about cramps and axe, use them quite a bit here, but chose not to include in post to keep it on the non climbing side of the equation.

  7. Lou May 23rd, 2011 1:25 pm

    Jim, I’d agree, especially solo when hardly anyone else (or no one) is around. But I think you have to be careful with what gear is left behind. Same thing goes for repair, first aid, or anything for that matter. At the least, NEVER leave probe behind unless you’ve practiced some beacon drills using a single ski pole probe with a reasonably deep burial.

  8. Lou May 23rd, 2011 1:26 pm

    Did I leave out the food?

  9. Lou May 23rd, 2011 1:39 pm

    Added the food to keep it real.

  10. Matt Kinney May 23rd, 2011 2:26 pm

    I use the same high-grade water bottles but don’t need the headlamp. 😀

  11. Lou May 23rd, 2011 3:10 pm

    I liked the lack of the headlamp hassle when we were on Denali… enough junk to deal with… but, if we’d used a snowcave…

  12. jim knight May 23rd, 2011 5:49 pm

    and your choice of boots?

  13. See May 23rd, 2011 7:00 pm

    Those poles look a lot like Life-Link Alpine Extremes, but without the ability to screw them together to make a longer probe(?)

    In any case, the Life-Links seem like a good way to go if you aren’t going to carry a dedicated probe.

  14. See May 23rd, 2011 7:29 pm

    Also, why is the shovel only good for a single use? Scoop, shaft, both, distrust of carbon? Voile XLM only about 5 ounces more.

    A single use shovel seems like cutting it a bit close to me.

  15. Lou May 23rd, 2011 7:46 pm

    Jim, either ZZero Green Machine or TLT5P.

    See, agree, the screw-together poles can be good but test extensively, I’ve had a really bad time with various ones, as in adding too much time to the search. “Single use” is a term of art, it’s probably good for two uses (grin). Really, strong enough, I just don’t think it’s the kind of shovel you’d use day in and day out, because of metal fatigue.

  16. Jan Wellford May 23rd, 2011 8:01 pm

    A bit short on the ski weight there. I’m guessing that’s the single ski weight. 15 lbs seemed awfully light to me, 19 is more like it.

  17. See May 23rd, 2011 9:06 pm

    Just wondering; maybe a pole without a basket (or 2) would be pretty good, compared to a long flexy probe, for spring conditions. The pole grip and short length could facilitate a fast shallow search.

  18. Lou May 24th, 2011 6:27 am

    See, that’s the thing, much of this is not an exact science and any dogma associated with avalanche rescue is subject to scrutiny and possible change. For example, look at all the howling about multiple burial features in beacons that was occurring a few years ago. Now, it appears that people are realizing range, speed and pinpoint accuracy are perhaps what’s important, and since all beacons could do better in those areas, the silence is deafening as I get the feeling we’ve been so overwhelmed by the marketing of bells and whistles many of us are speechless (which is why I so appreciate Jonathan S., as he is not speechless.)

    Perhaps most importantly, regarding fiddling around with avalanche probes, what beacons should do is during the pinpoint it should tell you what direction to dig and how far, thus replacing the probe. Do they do that? Barely.

    More, look at avy airbags.

    For years, despite statistics and direct experience that indicated the relative ineffectiveness of beacons at saving lives, we hopeful humans have carried our little electronic gizmos around like peasants dangled talismans from their necks in the dark ages, to ward off dread evil we had little understanding of. All that time, we were getting buried and located with nearly any model, even analog, but the problem was and still is the time it takes to dig us out — along with the inconvenient truth that around half of us are beat to death once we were finally dug up. What did we do about that? Slightly better shovels and some advice from BCA and others about how to shovel better.

    Now, lighter weight and more user friendly airbag technology comes along that will KEEP YOU FROM GETTING BURIED. All this other stuff just seems trivial in comparison, and making an issue out of avalanche probes has the feeling of being a straw man in the discussion. (And yes, in the case of my spring pack, I have neither airbag nor probe if conditions are compacted isothermal corn snow…)

  19. Jonathan Shefftz May 24th, 2011 6:54 am

    “For example, look at all the howling about multiple burial features in beacons that was occurring a few years ago.”
    — A few years ago? Still is occurring! And as long as the beacon spec stays as is, the controversy will stay as is, since signal separation beacons (i.e., marking/masking/flagging/blocking) will never be perfect. Plus any add’l functionality will always entail some add’l complexity, no matter how user-friendly the interface. For this coming season, the BCA Tracker 2 will face competition at the same price point from three signal separation beacons (i.e., exiting Ortovox 3+ and now Barryvox Element & Pieps Tour), so will be interesting to see how the competition plays out. Meanwhile, the BCA blog had a nice overview recently on signal overlap and model-specific coping strategies.
    — As for the other components of rescue, I applaud BCA’s efforts to focus on strategic shoveling, which has definitely influenced the avy courses I teach. As for probe and airbag packs, I take an economist’s cost-benefit approach. (The former in terms of weight & bulk.) So let’s see, probe, my lightest 240cm is 4.8oz and my heaviest 260cm is 7.4oz — and taking up essentially no space in my pack. Hard to come up with any justification for leaving that at home (despite the protestations of Lou & Andrew McLean to the contrary). Plus it’s not your life at stake but a partner’s, so foregoing a probe would have to be a group decision, subject to individual veto. By contrast, all airbag packs add *pounds* of weight. (How much would an AED weigh?) For certain people in certain places, I can see how they are a mandatory item, but I’m not convinced they’re for everyone.

  20. Lou May 24th, 2011 7:21 am

    Jonathan, as always, a well thought take. For what it’s worth, I do usually carry a probe though I use a lighter shorter one. The only time I leave it behind is when I’m leaving other stuff behind as well during bomber spring conditions. Agree that the weight is rather small to be worrying too much about, but on the other hand, with everything so nice and light these days, the only way to reduce weight is to just chisel away at the small things…

    In terms of helping others, the weight of my satphone and repair/first-aid kit is always there…

  21. Lou May 24th, 2011 8:33 am

    Jan, I did mess up the skis weight. What’s weird is before publishing the post I actually got the weight of the pair and made a note of it, then promptly forgot to include and just used the weight for one ski! Writing, an inexact process that’s for sure! Thanks for catching my error. Lou

  22. Drew May 24th, 2011 8:52 am

    Hi Lou:

    Do you attach your crampons to the outside of your pack with the biner?


  23. Lou May 24th, 2011 9:01 am

    Drew, yeah, they clank but are easy to get at. Probably better ways to do it. I stick them inside when I’m skiing down.

  24. Halsted May 24th, 2011 12:43 pm


    So what are “bells and whistles” on the newer transceivers?

    Are ABS brakes on a car a bell and whistle feature?


  25. Lou May 24th, 2011 12:58 pm

    If you practice threshold braking and get good at it, yes, ABS is a bell and whistle. As for the avalanche rescue transceiver, any feature you are unlikely to use but adds cost and complexity, is a bell, or perhaps a whistle. Some folks have never met an electronic bell they don’t like, have you (grin)?

  26. Halsted May 24th, 2011 1:17 pm

    I’m curious Lou how often do you practice with your “threshold braking” and with your Avalanche Rescue Transceiver? Now be honest…

    For me I have a car with ABS brakes. I practice at least 4 times a month with my transceiver (mostly multiple situations).

  27. Rob May 24th, 2011 2:09 pm

    “If you practice threshold braking and get good at it, yes, ABS is a bell and whistle”

    This is an old wives tale.

    ABS is threshold braking – in Modern systems it senses and prevents individual wheel lock up in fractions of second to degrees far beyond even you practice might accomplish.

    There is a reason that it is not permitted in most forms of auto racing. Put simply cars with it beat those without.

    The same systems are also often incorporated into vehicle stability and anti skid systems… which again beat even the best drivers and are normally outlawed in auto racing.

    See here.

  28. Lou May 24th, 2011 2:32 pm

    My experience was that in a winter driving course we were taught and did better using threshold braking than if we just stomped on it, even though the cars had ABS. Sorry, rather than reading the Wiki I actually have some experience to base my opinion on… but I agree that my statement is a good example of what could be illusory superiority. I probably should have mentioned I was talking about snow driving.

  29. Dragos Toma May 24th, 2011 2:51 pm

    I remember seeing a video that was a little bit more clear than this one.The problem I see without having ABS is that one might not use threshold braking in every case.The good thing about ABS is that it ads predictability while with threshold braking if the driver gets scared he might be tempted to just stomp the brakes. I know I have- when a stray dog jumped in front of my car, even though I knew ABS in fact lengthens the braking distance a little-the reflex was to just stomp the brakes. Thankfully I didn’t hit the poor dog.

    I think this is just like saying because analog transceiver have greater range they are better.

  30. Lou May 24th, 2011 3:57 pm

    Drago, good point, perhaps that’s where I fell short in my ode to threshold braking. Indeed, I usually don’t mind having the ABS as well, but sometimes the ABS does weird things at slower speeds in situations such as going downhill on sand, depending on vehicle, etc.

  31. Toby May 25th, 2011 9:30 am

    Hey Lou, did you see this?

    Aspen’s Chris Davenport and Neal Beidleman summit Everest today

    Several stories on the web about it

  32. PNWbrit May 25th, 2011 9:37 am

    Oh well Lou. Your winter driving course experience with ABS was exactly opposite to mine. And also to every non winter driving course I’ve taken both race/rally track based and law enforcement.

    I agree that on deep snow, sand and gravel locking a wheel MAY actually be more effective stopping than peventing the brake to lock.

    Sorry for the drift… but you kind of started it 😉

    Interesting light pack article.

  33. Lou May 25th, 2011 9:40 am

    Toby, yeah, it’s great they got to the summit! But better, they successfully guided a guy.

  34. Lou May 25th, 2011 10:02 am

    I started the drift (grin). How ABS behaves on snow might vary quite a bit according to system, model of vehicle and year of manufacture, not to mention the type of tires and how good the suspension is tuned. Add to that experience of driver and how motivated they are to learn technique.

    The worse the handling, the better it is to have ABS, that’s my take based on a lot of driving in fairly gnar conditions. For example, having ABS on my poorly balanced pickup is a heck of a lot more useful than it would be in our Nissan Versa if it had it. The Versa handles incredibly well, the studded snow tires grab like crazy, and two footed driving with threshold braking really works. I mess around with it all the time during snow and ice driving.

  35. SB May 25th, 2011 10:26 am

    I’ve been able to test stopping on snow with a previous vehicle that I had after the ABS was accidentally disabled after a new battery was installed. I was clearly able to stop shorter with the ABS disabled. Could I in a panic situation? Probably not, but it is possible.

    In order to answer the question, we need to understand the principle behind ABS. It locks the brake up and releases it at ~ 30 pulses a second (this may vary by vehicle). The idea is to approximate perfect braking by doing this. It probably would, if it pulsed at an infinite frequency, but 30Hz is not even close. While the brake is locked, you experience a coefficient of sliding friction, which is lower than static friction. When released, the braking force is less than optimal. It is close to optimal on each side of the locked/unlocked peaks. It will always be less effective than optimal braking. If we assume that a person can get close to optimal, then the human wins. If the human can’t get close, maybe ABS wins. I was clearly better than a 1995 Chevy Blazer’s system, but maybe the new systems are better.

  36. Lou May 25th, 2011 10:37 am

    SB, that’s exactly the problem. My understanding is that the ABS is locking up the brakes and skidding the wheels for a significant amount of time. Good threshold braking may not be perfect, but if you can get it down to _close_ to the skid/lock point, it is incredibly effective. I guess the idea is for the ABS to approximate or exceed the human nervous system. That’s probably not that tough given infinite financial resources, but cars have to be cost effective, so the ABS relies on what is a pretty primitive mechanical method of applying a bunch of pulses that simulate brake pumping. My take, anyhow…

  37. Rob May 25th, 2011 11:20 am

    Newer ABS systems actually measure an impending lock up and pulse the brake pressure prior to lock up. also same systems are integrated into anti skid, and stabiltiy control – which are incredible benefits.

    Anyway, I like knowing the guy behind me has ABS. Even if it’s on his 1995 Bronco.

  38. Halsted May 25th, 2011 11:31 am

    I don’t think that the engineers that designed ABS brakes figured that they where a “bell or whistle” addition to the car/truck. Just as the transceiver engineers that designed in signal separation and marking ability into their transceiver products. Maybe one day BCA will finally design a transceiver that has these abilities. BTW, looking at the accidents page 20% of the accidents involved multiple people either caught or buried.

  39. Lou May 25th, 2011 11:43 am

    Engineers do what they’re told by marketing people and others who control their paychecks, they’re about process of making something, not the opinion of what it should or will be called, nor in many cases whether what they make is really all that practical or useful in real life. A Ford Pinto is a good example. Or perhaps the Titanic?

    As for the multiple burial stats, great, I’m glad all beacons work for multiple burials. And I’ll continue to try and make sure any group I’m part of does everything they can to only get one person buried at at time in the case of an avy, as I’m certain the statistics for how many people in multiple burials (true burials, not just partials) are dug up alive are abysmal, despite how fancy the transceivers are. In other words, I still think the emphasis on multiple burial features is a red herring.

  40. Steve May 25th, 2011 12:32 pm

    It’s really the searcher(s) who affects the outcome of a multiple burial avalanche when more than one person is completely buried (and no body parts are visible). What comes into play more than the beacon model is experience, organization, strategy, communication, the physical ability to move quickly and perform hard work (shoveling) and maybe even a bit of luck.

    Take a look at the stats and look at the percentage of people who are killed in multiple burials; it’s pretty rare that everyone is rescued alive. As Lou suggests, an emphasis on avoiding multiple burials is best.

  41. Jonathan Shefftz May 25th, 2011 1:44 pm

    Lou, how long a tour can you go on with only 8 oz of food?

  42. Randonnee May 25th, 2011 2:32 pm

    Lou I agree with your comments about probes and probing. It appears that marketing of merchandise that plays on fears and naive hero-dreams drive some current attitudes or myths. Staying out of avalanches is what matters, and accurate, fast transceiver use is the more important focus also.

    Acquaintances of mine who also have done years to decades of avy control, and as I have have survived complete or partial burial, have a similar approach. That is, as I like to say- get it right or die. Sober, skilled, serious and conservative consideration keeps one out of avalanches- the more of all of this then the smaller the unlucky margin that gets one caught in an avalanche.

    When one gets caught and is killed by trauma or suffocation, the fascination (and $$ spent) with gadgets and features, shovel or probe size, then is clearly summarized as the wrong focus, of little use, and detracting from the important focus. Stay out of avalanches is the focus.

  43. Jonathan Shefftz May 25th, 2011 3:39 pm

    Since when is staying out of avalanches mutually exclusive with regard to carrying a probe?
    Now granted, as an avalanche course instructor, I always face constraints with regard to how much course time should be allocated to rescue. But otherwise, I am baffled by discussions of what the most important focus should be, as if avoiding entrainment and rescue prowess are somehow mutually exclusive.

  44. Lou May 25th, 2011 4:26 pm

    Jonathan, it’s not that they’re mutually exclusive, it’s just that folks such as myself and Rando are concerned about people who seem to have all the latest gear, along with avalanche safety education, and just go out and do fairly dumb things that get them caught in avalanches. I’m not trying to be divisive or polemic, it’s just that I grieve and want deep in my heart to see some of the needless tragedy stop. I’m lucky to be alive after doing such stuff, and that makes me doubly motivated to try and help others not go through the same thing…

    Granted, some things happen despite how careful we are — and we do have to choose a certain level of risk to have the experiences we want in the mountains. But I see some very different approaches to all this, and again, the approach I’m trying to call out is that of depending to a great degree on rescue and gear, rather than dialing back activity and expectations.

  45. Lou May 25th, 2011 4:29 pm

    Jonathan, “only 8 ounces?”

    Low base metabolism, eggs and bacon for breakfast, 5,000 vert with a few Cliff Shots goes fine. If I’m in shape. But I’m hungry when I get back (grin). In all seriousness, I’ll grab more food than that if I’m in more remote areas where a bad day could keep me out longer than expected, but for laps above road and stuff like that, I don’t carry much. 8 seemed like a good average. There are always marmots to eat as well.

  46. Randonnee May 25th, 2011 8:14 pm

    The discussion is about the wrong focus and fascination with gadgets and other discussion that does not contribute to good decisions or travel discipline on avalanche terrain.. The proliferation of avalanche courses and instructors is a curious factor which may lead to opinions not tempered by experience on avalanche terrain and by observing actual avalanching. Sorry to be blunt, but I can look from my property at many avalanche paths and have survived 30 years of professional and recreational exposure to avalanche potential. I have a bit of doubt about being lectured by a city-dwelling person who rarely touches avalanche terrain.

    The tragic local accident this past winter involved someone with good gear, a party that was well-equipped per the current fashion. Trauma during the avalanche entrainment nullified any benefit of transceivers, shovels, and probes. According to what I have read and discussed in the community, the accident involved a less-trained victim who was accompanied by Professional Ski Patrollers who had pitted and some made a decision to not ski where the fatal avalanche occurred. Sadly, although safer nearby as shown by the pit, some in the party skied safely, while the victim died as a result of an avalanche nearby. A slight variation in aspect and angle resulted in spatial variability in a small area leading to a fatal accident.. This tragic death of a well-loved local High School grad could not be prevented by fancy transceivers or volumes of transceiver discussions and practice on the lawn. It could not be prevented by the best pretty shovel or a shoveling strategy developed and promoted by the maker of shovels, and no one could wield their three-meter carbon probe quickly enough to matter in the least..

    Dying in an avalanche is not theoretical, it will occur sometimes unfortunately when someone is caught and carried by an avalanche. They will possibly die in that avalanche despite their group of extensively avalanche-class trained buddies who have the best transceiver, probe, and shovel and plenty of practice. The decision to enter avalanche terrain is the ultimate factor, the other is just background noise by naive persons. Get it right or die.

  47. See May 25th, 2011 8:41 pm

    I sure don’t know, but I would be reluctant to make statements regarding how much faith someone other than myself places in their equipment or their skills.

    Most of the people I know don’t believe their beacon or their probe or their Avalung or even their airbag or their training is going to protect them from all harm. They do their best and realize that nothing is without risk.

    I’m not pretending to be some sort of authority, but I wonder who all these “naive persons” are.

    To quote a real expert, “much of this is not an exact science.”

    Maybe I’m just getting old.

  48. Lou May 25th, 2011 8:46 pm

    See, I have no intention to preach, just talking about what I’ve seen out there. How people behave is a good indicator, and I include myself in that…

  49. Jonathan Shefftz May 25th, 2011 8:55 pm

    I of course share the dismay at reckless decision-making, fatalistic approaches, and related attitudes with consequent bad outcomes. (And I even share the dismay at poor avalanche instruction – I bet that I know more bad avalanche instructors than anyone else here does…)
    But the concomitant denunciation of interest in advances in avalanche rescue gear (and even the skepticism of bringing along a several-ounce probe) strikes me as unproductive. Although the analogy is not perfect, still, campaigns against drunk driving are not accompanied by criticisms of seat belts and air bags.
    By contrast, the one area where I do think a focus on rescue detracts from what really matters has been in many on-line forum posts about incidents with successful rescues: the responses extol the virtues of the successful rescue, which although certainly a good thing, leaves unexplored the decision-making that led to the incident in the first place.
    A perfect example is playing out right now, although it happens to be a fall, not an avalanche, but still I am struck by all the discussion of the rescue (which entailed some very basic first aid, lowering the victim down the steep slope, and then handing off to the SPOT-summoned SAR team) with almost no examination of how the incident could have been prevented . . . whether by booting vs skinning (helpful to invoke the Volken book’s safety-efficiency-speed hierarchy, although a tough call given the specifics of the terrain and snow conditions), employing ski crampons for such steep exposed skinning to prevent the initial slip, having a self-arrest ski pole grip at the ready to stop the initial fall from turning into a slide (personally, I’m skeptical on how well self-arrest grips work for a skiing fall at speed, but I’m optimistic for a skinning fall that starts at zero speed), and/or wearing the helmet that was strapped to the victim’s pack (as this sure sounds like an incident that even helmet-skeptic Lou would acknowledge would have been just a scare with a helmet). I realize that of my four prevention items, three are gear, so the analogy with avy incidents here isn’t perfect, but still, the focus on successful rescues and glossing over of unsuccessful decision-making does disturb me in so many on-line discussions of incidents.

  50. Jonathan Shefftz May 25th, 2011 8:57 pm

    Returning to less controversial topics, I need about 100 calories every 30 minutes, so whether from a Gu packet or half an Odwalla bar, a little over two ounces per hour. So eight ounces of food doesn’t work for my daytrips!

  51. See May 25th, 2011 9:05 pm

    I guess part of the problem, as I see it, is the old cliche “good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.”

  52. Randonnee May 25th, 2011 9:56 pm

    There are a couple of obvious requirements- enough snow accumulation and a steep enough angle for avalanching. There you go, those two pieces of information can keep you alive on avalanche terrain if used in proper judgement and disciplined behavior. I am surprised at folks who I observe who may dig pits and have all of the gear but actually do not fully grasp even those two requirements! To venture out on an avalanche path would require more knowledge to make a good decision, but one can avoid all avalanches using those two facts. In my view, too many avoid the tough evaluation,and the discipline of good decision making on avalanche terrain and self-denial for the sake of safety. The inadequate excuse, too often is that “much of this is not an exact science” or other cop-out about the mysterious nature of avalanching or other weak thought. There is a tremendous body of knowledge about avalanching and one may use that knowledge along with experience and observation to stay alive on avalanche terrain. Ski areas with avalanche terrain are managed in a fashion so there there is a high level of safety. Yes, explosives are used in ski areas, but the evaluation to decide that hazard exists is the point. One may also test for hazard in the backcountry and use plenty of available data.

    Clearly many of us survive bad judgement, the difference in living and dying is the amount of exposure one accepts before taking that risk. Sort of like bouldering 15 ft from the ground compared to free soloing hundreds of feet high- falls on each have different consequences. Big consequence resulting from getting it wrong may turn into a much greater chance of injury or death from avalanching, but moreso in some situations. Getting caught in an avalanche is not as simple a sports injury and trip to the ER, it is a chance of immediate fatal injury despite your group having all of the gadgets and classes.

  53. Harpo May 26th, 2011 2:45 pm

    Lou, how do you like carrying your shovel inside your Cilo 30? I just got a shovel pocket from Graham at Cilo, it works with all their packs but weighs 8oz. I mainly plan on using with my bigger Cilo packs when they are stuffed for overnighters, but I might also use it with the 30. I had my local seamstress make a pocket for probe and shovel handle.

    In the spring I carry an older Bd pole whose carbon lowers convert to a probe as a compromise and leave my probe at home. The carbon lowers also fit my whippets, which I have used in anger twice, though both times while ascending.

  54. Lou May 26th, 2011 3:00 pm

    Harpo, I don’t mind the shovel in the pack, been doing it that way for years.

  55. Halsted June 14th, 2011 12:13 pm

    Hi Lou,
    I thought I’d let you know that Jamie Adams of the Alpine Meadows Pro Ski Patrol won the 2ed annual ski patrol olympics avalanche transceiver contest. He found 3 buried beacons in 2 minutes 10 seconds, and he did it with an Ortovox S1 transciver. He beat the closest compeditor by 32 seconds…

    You can check out the story at

  56. Lou June 14th, 2011 12:23 pm

    That’s interesting, but what they need to do is bury all three of those beacons 6 feet deep and require the competitor to dig them out. The guy who has them out the fastest, wins. I’ll bet the brand of beacon would have nothing to do with the outcome.

  57. Halsted June 14th, 2011 12:58 pm

    Your correct that the digging out will always be the hard part, but finding/pin-pointing the buried victim’s location is the first step.

    If the victims are buried 6′ deep they are generally a fatality. But, the average victim burial is about a meter deep. More studies are being done on how to best dig out an avalanche victim. BTW, I also worked on the first BCA digging study.

    Meanwhile, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on how a multiple burial situations should best be handled?

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