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.

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