Traditional climbing has a reputation for scaring climbers new to it. Suddenly it is up to the climber to find the way now, no bolts lead the way anymore and it's important to stay on route, as climbing off route is a journey into the unknown. Trad climbers must place appropriate protection themselves, while the possibilities for protection may not always be good. Difficulty ratings are notoriously stiff (on historic trad routes) and climbs can be long to the point where just
Normally we relate experience with a level of proficiency. The more experience one has, the better qualified they are to make the right decisions. It is proven that humans make decisions more readily if they have made similar decisions beforehand. As we recognize patterns through firsthand experiences we see which decisions lead to favorable outcomes and which ones do not; we develop intuition for future actions. In relation to making decisions in avalanche terrain then, how
I recently found myself chatting with a group of avalanche professionals about education take homes for avalanche safety students. We arrived at the idea of sourcing small snippets or ‘nuggets’ from the group that had strong, concise meaning and could be easily remembered. Perhaps a cleverly stated point could penetrate the dubious stream of sometimes an overwhelming amount of new information. What ensued in my opinion resulted in some great ideas; some new, some old and most
One of the most common misconceptions of new students in the avalanche world is that there is a sure-fire way to determine is a slope is safe to ski or not. Many have heard about digging snow pits to look at and test snow structure and think that this must be their silver-bullet to success. In reality it is this myopic mindset that we perpetually beat back as avalanche course instructors, as digging in the snow is just one tool in sorting a much larger puzzle of uncertainty.
Just over ten years ago I went down to New Zealand to work what was then my second season forecasting and guiding in the country. I had taken a new job for a heli-accessed cat-skiing operation called Mt. Potts that operated on the land of an old ski area called Erehwon; a telling name as it is no-where spelled backward. It was quiet, as you would imagine and the mountains were big and steep. We just lacked one thing to get going for the season, snow. Week after week past and
It has been well documented that with knowledge and experience we can better predict the propensity of avalanches. So how is it that so many experienced people still get caught in avalanches? There really isn’t a simple answer but ultimately it does all boil down to an individuals’ decision-making process at crunch time. Knowledge acts as a set of keys in the mountains and often times the more one knows the more comfortable one feels pushing closer to the limit, consequently
Tis the season when we all get excited to ski in the hills once again. Its already gotten cold and this morning folks in Salt Lake woke to traces of snow down to the valley floor, undoubtedly tickling every skiers urge for winter exploits. Historically, Fall in the Mountain West can see a full spectrum of weather conditions, from down right hot and dry (my tomatoes grew last season into mid November) to cold and wet. And it's important to remember that how conditions present