Sunday, 28 February 2010

When is it Safe?

Yesterdays incident seems to have caused some comments on uk.climbing forums and the press. Some forum comments are ill informed and rude. Mountaineers are the predominant trigger in most Scottish avalanches walking up into avalanche terrain to access a route, or descending onto avalanche terrain on completion.  In Europe it's ski tourers or off piste skiers.  Tourers are like mountaineers crossing or climbing into avalanche terrain. Skiers descend into it. The speed that you get into trouble on ski's is much, much faster.  Most experienced off piste skiers know how to do stability tests and slope profiles and how to ski a slope using safe travel techniques.  Risk and consequence reduction.

It's not and never will be an exact science that eliminates the risk of being avalanched.  A recent example. I dig a pit.  29 taps before a compression tap shear, and an ambiguous shovel shear.  Do I ski the slope?  I didn't yet later in the day a lot of folk did and came to no harm.  On a different day I would have done as they did.  It just didn't "feel" right that day. If you make an informed choice you can have some of the best day's of your life. That does not mean you can't get it wrong. No one get's it right all the time and the sum total of near misses or events, some perhaps unpleasant, is what we call experience.  You don't get it as an armchair pundit, passing judgement on folk who have the cohones to go for it, or by sitting on your arse. You just accept the risk.  Rescuers are no different especially in a voluntary service where saying no is very easy.  It's the common sharing of a risk appetite in the mountains that makes MR so successful in the UK.  And to some extent Ski Patrol. 

Will this avalanche? The stability test says no but the forecast says "considerable on some aspects". You have the run of your life. You might just have to accept that is what it might cost you.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Avalanche on the Glades

Interesting skiing today in Glencoe. Big sastrugi off piste facing the East wind and big loading on the East side of the mountain.  Unfortunately two well known off pisters had a slide over on "Camasutra"(?) with a crown wall of about a meter and a long trip down for a few hundred feet, luckily on the surface. Both guys were very cold and one had a broken ankle. Tried to ski in but as you will see in the picture there was near thing, so decided it was safer to get a helicopter.  Skiing back to the car from the summit later was nice.
Rannald Bailley and the crack Glencoe Patrollers were on the wrong side of -  but quickly slid back over.  This propogated up the hill beyond what is visible and caused a big slide that went past the two original victims below.  Dense hard slab and very deep.   A near miss!

The crown wall from the Avlx the victims triggered. Ski sticks 120cm approx, so 1.5m Crown Wall.  It went accross the Cam Glen gulch and up the other side a bit.  Pretty Big! Good pic from Blair Fyffe SAIS Blog
Middle picture just below the ridge you can see the crown wall

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

SAIS Profiles & Why it's Stay Safe Weather

Tuesday/Wednesday's Forecast and Pit
Wednesday/Thursdays Pit's Below showing the windblown grains on top of the Surface Hoar and Damaged crystals.  It's snowed heavily since this forcast went out so late Wednesday and the rest of the week off piste steep stuff on the marked aspects will be lethal.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Another Avalanche Near Miss

What a winter. These pics by regular Glencoe off pister Bob Gatting fairly show just how popular the "Freeride" concept is becoming.  Fiona skied this face 25 years ago, and it is usually done once or twice a season.  Now it's common as are the Corrie Ba and Cam Glen itineries. A Back Country Transceiver Park couldnt be put in a better place. Great weather so shouldn't moan, but it would be nice to get another top up of fresh by the weeks end.  Fingers crossed.
Jumping The Cornice - Airborne
WTF? Glencoe Ski Club Member Nearly Gets Taken Out By an Avalanche

The crown below the scarp is visible top left
NW Aspect Nearly Skied Out

Sunday, 21 February 2010

NACC XC Race Today

NACC ran an XC race at Fearnoch Forest today.  Glorious weather and a great 2.5km course with ice, snow and lots of up and downs.  As always these guys are a great laugh and it was good event.  Fiona was first lady and I was 3rd beaten into place the winner Nick Charlton and 2nd placed Mike Bossard.
Sun and snow at Fearnoch

Some competitors with Ben Cruachan in the background

The eventual winner - Chairman Charlton
Tim Brand who was on my Tail but didn't get past
By lap 8 I was pushing this one

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Glencoe News

About 3 weeks I ago I met Glencoe's new owner in the Patrol Hut at Glencoe and had a chat.  We got to talking about things that would encourage more folk to come up to Glencoe Ski area.  I suggested a Transceiver Park and got a positive response and asked to run with it.  I contacted the Scottish Mountain Safety Officer Heather Morning who has been really helpful and supportive.  I have as it happens an account with "Anatom" who imports Back country Access (Tracker) and "Snow Pulse" (ABS) as this is now my winter line while the bikes are quiet. They have also been kind enough to sponsor our Avalanche courses and provide me with a DTS 2.  Heather mentioned they had been really helpful in supporting her avalanche awareness days with gear and would put them in touch with me.  After contacting the Guides Association, Scottish Mountain Trust and the Mountain Rescue Committee for support, things have come together nicely. Andy Meldrum and the staff at Glencoe Mountain Ltd are enthusiastic to host the on snow park and "Anatom" will sponsor it with a BCA system. I am really chuffed that this has come together although it has taken me lots of phone calls, meetings and writing, but I have no doubt it will save the lives of mountaineers, mountain rescuers and skiers.  Having dug out over 33 fatalities in avalanches and god knows how many broken folk, it's nice to get something going that helps us be our "brothers keeper" instead off just witnessing tragedy.  Clip below of a park in the states and some stuff from Glencoe skiing today. Click on any of the images to enlarge as they are big format jpg.
I took some time out today to go up and see the Keith and Christine who are really keen on running sessions in the training park when it comes.  I wanted to ski the Fly Paper. But, part of the face was in sun and the steep North facing section in shade.  At 48 deg and after a lot of new snow 48 hours ago I thought I better do some stabilty testing.  6 taps for a 10cm soft shear and at 28 taps a 40cm hard slab shear.  While not an easy shear, when from the elbow then shoulder, this is still red zone and likely to be a slope that would get skied a few times then pop due to "shear propogation".  So backed off and had a word with patrollers who quite rightly were concerned about folk skiing it.
Good advert for FIPS on my off piste bag, and also my ANPSP Securistes from Tignes back in the day. Below is the view East over Corrie Ba and above the off piste route "Wagon Wheel" and also looking West above the off piste route "Cama Doon".  Both of which run at about 4:6 which is Black off piste and needs care due to avalanche risk.  "Wagon Wheel" could be stable, but "Cama Doon" even though windward was still loaded and unstable IMHO 
Below at the top of "Cama Doon". Cornices on Creise, some collapsing with the sun
I forgot to add that I want fatter ski's. Some really fat bastard twin tips and big mountain long at 175. Just as well  "Movement" ski's are making a deal.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Etape Caledonia Info and Donations

86 miles on closed roads around Highland Perthshire. Can be ridden "sportive" style or road race where it's hot and gnarly. We want to race this partly in memory of our old climbing mucker Ed Grindley who sadly passed away today, as well as all those folk we know, or sadly now only new, who are touched by Cancer.

Just giving donations:

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Skiing Steep & Deep

Getting back to bike time very soon.  Road bike and MTB with the spring like weather.  However, it's worth remembering why we ski:

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ski Glencoe 3rd Feb 2010

A few shots of the skiing and a triggered slab with crown wall.  Transceivers, shovels and probes all on board as it's risk "consideable" to high avlx risk so we are avoiding N. Facing lee slopes at 38/48deg.  This crown was on a traverse out, and had a good run out with no terrain traps.

Duncan Gunn 17 and a cheeky skier on the steep & deep

Heavy Snow on the way

9 inch triggered slab on the traverse out to back to the ski area

The stuff that can bury you if you don't practice safe travel