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Avy, seven buried, one dead


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I don’t think we disagree although we say it differently. Venturing out the door entails risk. Knowledge of the degree of risk does not keep us at home where we are safest of all. We may be capable of making better decisions with more knowledge, but that capability is biased with desire, group dynamics, experience with similar situations in the past and more.


I highly endorse avalanche training and knowledge. I hope we all can make the best decision we can the next time we evaluate that next slope of snow we face. But the decisions we make and the actions we take, determine our fate. Knowledge, independent of our actions, will not save us.

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From the avalanche forecast (emphasis added):



Increasing strong southwest winds and another 6-12 inches of

snowfall was seen the past 24 hours ending Monday morning. The

strongest winds have been at higher elevations in the south such

as at White Pass and Timberline. Also very important is the 10

degree or greater warming trend seen at higher elevation sites,

but with steadier temperatures at the Cascade pass sites. This

weather is likely to be causing new slab layers to form on lee

mainly north to east slopes at higher elevations. About 2 to 5

feet of snowfall accumulated at Hurricane Ridge and at sites near

the Cascade crest last week, with 1-2 feet east of the crest.

Strong winds and warmer temperatures were also seen late last

week, which also should have caused slab layers to form on lee

slopes. The snow last week accumulated on light lower density

snowfall and hoar frost that formed during clear cool weather

early in the week. There was a lot of avalanche activity at

Crystal Mountain ski area on Saturday, and then an avalanche

fatality in the back country near Crystal Mountain on Sunday

afternoon. The ski patrol at Crystal Mountain on Saturday

reported several easily skier triggered slab avalanches on north

aspects ranging from 1.5-5 feet in depth. Buried hoar frost was

reported to be evident as a weak layer. The fatality on Sunday

was in Cement Basin on the northeast side of East Peak, where

initial information is that skiers triggered a 2' by 200' wide

avalanche on a north to northeast slope that ran about 300 feet

and buried one of the skiers for about 15 minutes. The main

avalanche activity on Monday has been at Mt Hood where widespread

skier triggered 6-18 inch slab avalanches were reported by the Mt

Hood Meadows ski patrol on varied aspects above about 5500', and

especially at higher elevations above about 6000 feet.


I keep reading about ski patrol setting off this avalanche and the other avalanche, is it possible to call and ask? Maybe not at a listed number, but then again maybe the avy control ski patrol people wouldn't mind sharing what they know?

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Although I am not a worshiper of Twight I remember reading in his book saying something like if the weather's bad, stay home. By tring to get the most out of your weekend I think some people push it when they shouldn't. You know its always sad when people die in the mountains. Well, come to think of it. . it is sad where ever people die. If I ever die from an avy it is my own fault and you can quote me on it. Oh, and emphasize to the press that I am not a mountaineer or a mazama.

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Warning: thread creep.


I'm a veteran lift-serviced skier with a desire to expand my horizons, skiing-wise. To this end, Santa brought me a fine book, Staying alive in Avalanche Terrain , Bruce Tremper, Mounties Press, 2002. Other newbies to BC skiing might want to take a look, it's full of information.

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They said on the news tonight that two were buried, and the five others went to rescue the other two. It sounds like the newspeople didn't know what they were talking about yesterday.


Re: Texplorer's comments:


His first one was in poor taste. We should be respecting the dead, not making them the butt of jokes.


His second perhaps has some validity, especially with the Mountaineers paradigm of trip scheduling. When you sign up for a trip X weeks in advance, there may be more of a desire to summit instead of bail. Even more so if people on the trip need the credit for a course.

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the phone number to call (206)526-6677 ,

updated daily, by the most excellent NorthWest Avalanche Center.


or check in at your ski patrol headquarters when you get to where you're going- Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol is generally very happy to dispense Backcountry avalanche and skiing conditions, if you just go in and ask.

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If you want to be out fairly regularly in quality winter snow in the PNW you will be skiing on "considerable" days. It is almost a default category in the winter.


I couldn't agree more. If you want to ski on, "fun," snow in the winter you are going to go out into the mountains many times on days when the avy conditions are listed as considerable.


If you choose the slopes you ski on correctly you can have a fun day, but we are all capable of mistakes no matter how much information and training we have.

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There is a memorial service set for Friday, I don't know where yet. Unfortunately his fiancee may not return in time from China. I recently met Don at a slide show of a trip in Peru of mutual friends. Seemed like a great guy, very friendly.


Things can go wrong out there, even with the best training. I'd encourage those without avalanche training to get it. Those that have, use it. Don't be shy about digging a snow pit. I always do it if I'm in doubt, and at least once a trip to learn more about the snowpack. Ski safely.

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I don't have any experience with Avalungs, but I have always felt that I either wouldn't have the presence of mind to put the mouthpiece in my mouth in the event of a slide, or the mouthpiece would be ripped out by the force of the snow. The newspaper report said that Dovey was buried for 20 min under 5 ft of snow. While we do not know whether he died of trauma, it is quite possible that he died from hypoxia, even though he was wearing an avalanche transceiver. Twenty minutes is a long time to go without air and it points out how important it is to practice beacon searches so that they go quickly and efficiently.


There was a triple burial in Canada a few years ago with victims as deep as five feet. They were all recovered within 5 minutes and all survived.

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If the Seattle Mariners would have tweaked their lineup just a little bit this year they would have won the world series. Why couldn't the coaches just see it. Its so obvious. At least they should have logged onto this site after the game to find out what they did wrong.

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While it is true that you can find safe skiing at all levels of avalanche danger, it seems to me that this group chose basically the worst place to go that particular day. The snowpack in the Cascades had (and still has) textbook instability - rain crust (bed surface), followed by surface hoar from clear, cold weather just before Christmas (weak layer), followed by increasingly dense layers (slab). The most recent storm, on Friday, had deposited about a foot of snow during very strong westerly winds. Many natural avalanches released during that storm.


Given these conditions, a prudent choice would have been lower-altitude, lower-angled terrain on windward or sheltered slopes (or to stay home). But instead they chose to ski on terrain that was very vulnerable - steep (35 degrees), lee (east aspect just below the crest), and high (6600') *.


All of this information was readily available on 12/28 by reading the NWAC report, checking the Crystal Mt. sensor data for the past few days, and looking at a map. The fact that the slope in question had apparently been skied several times Saturday and Sunday without incident prior to the accident may have blinded the group to the fundamental terrain and snowpack dangers.


This makes me wonder what sort of pressure the Mountaineers group leaders are under to stick to their outing plans - I assume that this was a previously scheduled trip to the Norse Peak/Crystal backcountry area. Cement Basin would have been the last place I'd have picked to go that day.


* I'm going off of information posted on turns-all-year.com about the exact location of the accident, which is the most precise I've found - I have no idea how accurate it is (it gave a position of 46 56 37 N and 121 26 45 W, which is consistent with everything else I've heard). Reports about the aspect of the slope seem to vary between NNE to ESE. The location above is on an E aspect.

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Attached to this post (see top of post) is a topo map I just made of the area. The latitude/longitude location seems a little too far east and closer to Cement Creek than I would have thought. This is the purple X. The red X seems more plausible. Of course, my software could be in error in acquiring the location.


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The slope in question varies from 5800 feet to 6600 feet. Hazard was forecast as considerable above 6000 feet and moderate below. Avalanche was triggered by the 14th skier to descend the slope on Sunday, following a number of skiers under essentially the same conditions on Saturday.


Mountaineer trip leaders are not under any undue pressure to "stick to outing plans" and may change objectives as conditions dictate. Or turn around.


I do believe that observing a significant ski traffic on a run will lull a great many of us into thinking that a slope may be more stable than it is. Examining lessons learned to guide our own future decisions could save lives. Finger pointing or second guessing will not.


Question, at what url can I find the "Crystal Mt. sensor data"?

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Mountaineer trip leaders are not under any undue pressure to "stick to outing plans" and may change objectives as conditions dictate. Or turn around.


Hmmm, I somewhat disagree, at least in repsect to climbing outings for class credit, where credit is not given for the climb unless the summit is reached (unless this policy has changed). I think this creates an inordinate amount of pressure to continue, and strife in the groups, as some people are trying to get summits in under graduation time limits.


I do believe that observing a significant ski traffic on a run will lull a great many of us into thinking that a slope may be more stable than it is. Examining lessons learned to guide our own future decisions could save lives. Finger pointing or second guessing will not.


Yep, yep, and yep.

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