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#91564 - 02/26/08 11:34 PM Avy in AK, 2-23-08
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Last Saturday or Sunday you may have caught an AP article about an avy in AK triggered by a skier, who was recovered after 40 minutes (!!!!), transported, treated and released later in the day. Below is a link to a website with photos taken at the time the avalanche was triggered. Phenomenal photos...

Sunburst Avalanche (scroll down for photos)

One reason this guy survived, aside from the quick action of other skiers in the area, is that there were a number of trained Avy searchers and Avy dogs across the highway doing a body recovery of another avy victim from 10 days earlier. They were able to respond with dogs and a helo within minutes after witnessing the avy. I wasn't able to be there, but I know most of the people who were. Despite the extraordinarily high risk, tons of people were still out skiing in the area.

The skier was very very lucky... the liklihood of surviving after 40 minutes buried is quite low. He was apparently blue when he was dug out, but amazingly did not suffer any lasting consequences and was released from the ER the same day. The cat only has 8 more lives.

MNS
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#91565 - 02/27/08 07:56 AM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

Wow. talk about luck. The pictures of the initiation and start down are pretty amazing, then combined
with the pictures of the field after with an army of searchers....

Kinda scares the crap out of me to see that many people there and it still took 4 hours to find him.
Did he have a beacon or was it the old fashioned way?
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#91566 - 02/27/08 08:32 AM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: phat]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Phat...

I think they found him right away using beacons, but it took 40 minutes to dig him out. And it was the skier in the initial photos who was buried. I don't know what the slope angle is in that area - I don't backcountry ski - but from the photos it looks on the lower angle side of things. Steep enough to slide, but low enough angle that it didn't pick up as much speed as it could have. The skier is one very lucky guy.

MNS
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#91567 - 02/27/08 08:56 AM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
coyotemaster Offline
member

Registered: 03/07/06
Posts: 294
Loc: Arizona
Thanks for posting this Midnightsun.

Is this a ski area with lifts & such or just wild country?

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#91568 - 02/27/08 12:22 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: coyotemaster]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
It is Turnagin Pass, a very popular and accessible undeveloped back country area. We tend to do several recoveries up there every winter.

MNS
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#91569 - 02/27/08 03:36 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
What is surprising is the depth and mass of the layer of snow. It was huge and the impact of the skier was simply the final straw. I think I'm more scared of avolanches that class 5 rivers or 5:11 rock.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
I have an avy video - its pretty impressive. I understand youre chances are high of being killed by being crushed against something - a large piece of ice?
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#91570 - 02/27/08 04:26 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: Jimshaw]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
There are several mechanisms of death in an avy: asphyxia, crush against a hard object (ice or rock), and traumatic injury to the c-spine (this is the most common cause of death in shallow avys - the neck gets snapped when the wall of snow hits hard from behind). Death isn't necessarily instant. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />

MNS
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#91571 - 02/28/08 11:41 AM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
Helluva way to go, not my style, I'll stay with snowshoeing and x ctry thank you. It would've been another recovery had the sar not been nearby. Nice post though to warn of winter dangers Andi.
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#91572 - 03/06/08 11:49 AM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
trailblazer Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 788
Loc: Menlo Park, CA/Sierra Nevada
Yikes! Thanks for posting this. What incredible luck...esp that long underneath the snow - and considering the amount of snow in the avalanche and the amount of power that thing released...wow. That is one serious crown.

One thing that strikes me about the pictures are the other ski tracks down the face...seems the skier just hit the sweet spot (the rocks perhaps?). An example that even though there are tracks the slope isn't necessarily safe.

I'm with Jim...I'm more scared of avalanches than class 5 rivers or 5:11 rock.
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#91573 - 03/06/08 01:09 PM 5:11 rock [Re: trailblazer]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Someone asked "whats 5:11 rock? Maybe Dryer

This thread seems to be drying up so I'll say this here, since its referenced twice in this thread.

The yosemite system is a method of defining the degree of difficulty of climbs in Yosemite. It has been widely adopted in the US although there may some differences between the coasts. It is also use in off road driving and kayaking. A class five river is "technical" whereas a class 6 river is "un-navigable". Class 5 rivers will throw you through the air completely out of the water and right into a "hole in the river" that will suck you under then spit you back out again, or not spit you out in which case its your last ride.

in rock climbing
class 3 is scrambling using hands
Class 4 is scrambling where a slip could kill you and ropes are reccommended.
Clas 5 is then broken into steps from 5:1 to 5:9.
5:10 rock is broken into 5:1-a,b,c and d as are 5:11, 5:12, 5:13, and 5:14, so there are about 30 steps.
5.6 is pretty easy rock wearing good shoes.
5:7 means it may get hard but you will find a handhold before you get desperate.
5:8 you might get desperate seeking a hand hold.
5:9 the old definition of the limit of human ability.
5:10 here you start the realm of the "X", your body spread over an area of rock as simple closed body language will not work except in a crack.
I did a 5:10c where it was overhanging and I had 2 fingers on one knob and in the other hand three fingers on a knob, my right foot pressing against a rock behind me to hold me up for the dyno (Lunge).
5:11 rock is like - "what holds". Imagine a smooth vertical rock with some roughness on the surface.
5:6 rock means artificial climbing only - like pitons.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
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#91574 - 03/06/08 04:17 PM Re: 5:11 rock [Re: Jimshaw]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
Just to be picky!

Class 5 climbing classifications are subdivided 5.1, 5.2, etc. - a decimal system not a ":". That's why it is called the Yosemite DECIMAL system. Class 5 is now usually called "free climbing"

Class 6 is artificial aid (not 5:6 - last line in post). It is not called class 6 anymore - it usually is identified by A0 to A5. A0 is like using a pendulum. A1 is like a bolt ladder. A5 is like bat hooks. Jiggle and you die.

Snow and ice climbing have their own ratings, such as W1, W4 etc.
The "W" is for water ice.

The top free climbing classification that is being climbed now is 5.14 with some rumbles of 5.15 . It takes a while for the top to get pushed higher. It is sort of a self rated system by climbers -- someone does a first ascent and calls it "5.7". Then next one comes along as says, no, it's 5.8. After a while everyone seems to settle on a rating. Those climbs that do not get done much usually are stuck with the first ascent rating. You take these with a grain of salt. It is all pretty subjective.

The ratings are based on the hardest move on each climb. It does not have much to do with using a rope or not. Some hot shots solo 5.11 without a rope. Some weekend warrirors (like me) use a rope on most class 4.

Now, the Europeans have a different rating, Brittish also different, Canadians different. Area guidebooks have a chart (sort of like the shoe size chart in gear catalogs) that compare the different ratings.

As for 5.11, you have to either be a VERY talented natural born climber or have trained a lot and know lots of very specific techniques to climb at this level. Most weekend climbers do the 5.6-5.9 range if they actually lead the climb (trad climbing). Sport climbers do a lot of 5.10 -5.12 - but they often have a top rope or very closley spaced gear so a fall does not result in an injury.

And I have not been keeping up with the rock climbing journals the last few years, so I could be out-dated on the information above!

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#91575 - 03/06/08 05:33 PM Re: 5:11 rock [Re: wandering_daisy]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Daisy
Thanks for correcting the last line, I meant class 6. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> But then I guess thats changed. Its been atleast ten years since I drove a piton. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

quote
__________________________________________
Class 6 is artificial aid (not 5:6 - last line in post). It is not called class 6 anymore - it usually is identified by A0 to A5. A0 is like using a pendulum. A1 is like a bolt ladder. A5 is like bat hooks. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />Jiggle and you die. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
______________________________

Ooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhh <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />

Thats sounds nasty... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
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#91576 - 03/06/08 10:42 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: trailblazer]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Just learned today that the person who dug the skier out had just finished Avy training a few weeks earlier, and the guy who assessed him on-scene him had just finished WFR training 5 days earlier.

And just a note... the guy was probably only buried for 20 to 25 minutes, not 40 as published by the papers. He was not breathing and hypoxic when dug out, but had probably just lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and slumped, cutting off his airway. He apparently started breathing spontaneously after having his airway cleared and opened. He did not suffer any brain injury from lack of oxygen, so he couldn't have stopped breathing for more than a couple of minutes (6 minutes can cause severe brain injury). His life was saved because there were people in the area who had the training necessary for those high-risk conditions. His rescuers were strangers to him - they just happened to be in the area, also skiing.

My understanding is that the skier triggered the slide when he went airborne over a rock and came down hard on the snowpack below. There was probably a weakness in the snowpack just below the rock, and the rest is history. I missed tonight's meeting where this avy was discussed, so I don't really know many details.

MNS
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#91577 - 03/07/08 05:33 PM Re: 5:11 rock [Re: Jimshaw]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
Pitons have been "out" for about 20 years! You ought to get into it again. You would not believe all the really nice super light-weight gear that is used nowadays. Cams and stoppers - lighter than pitons, easier to place. No more hauling a 16-oz hammer on a climb. I am doing my hard core backpacking now while I can. Then, when I get really old, I am going to be a sport climber and just clip those bolts and hang out with the young'ns in my sporty spandex!

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#91578 - 06/01/08 04:01 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
northernbcr Offline
member

Registered: 05/26/08
Posts: 125
Loc: bc/yukon border area
did anyone find out if this party of skiers did any slope testing before skiing ,the release layer was deep at top of slide . the skier was vert lucky 40 min is to long. were there any oher factors ,like temp changes, winds. it looks like a great ski area

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#91579 - 06/02/08 05:42 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: northernbcr]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Don't know if they had done any tests, but the avy forcast was for high probability of a slide. Our rescue group was just a few miles away digging out a snowmachiner who had died a week before in a gigantic avy... conditions this year were absolute RIPE for avalanches, but fortunately only a few fatalities.

The day this happened was absolutely gorgeous, the first clear day after a 6 foot dump of new, wet snow. The snowmachiner we were digging out had been killed more than a week earlier, but this day was the first day it was considered safe enough to go in. Not necessarily safe enough to ski, but safe enough to recover the body from low angle terrain.

MNS
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#91580 - 06/05/08 07:53 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: midnightsun03]
northernbcr Offline
member

Registered: 05/26/08
Posts: 125
Loc: bc/yukon border area
wow 6 foot that is a dump it is really to bad that the skiers did not listen to the posted warnings it is a classic case of i must get to the new snow and nothing will happen to me. our avy danger was quite high this year we had a icy layer develop early then covered in a large layer of powder and the temps stayed cold but at least it did not form slab.thanks for reply take care

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#91581 - 06/06/08 01:04 PM Re: Avy in AK, 2-23-08 [Re: northernbcr]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
When I drove through the area in March, the snow on the side of the road (and between the lanes) was 10 feet or so. It was certainly well over the full-size pick-up truck I was riding in! Like driving through a roofless tunnel. We didn't have near that volume of snow in town.

MNS
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