Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 19 the luck of the irish on Paddy's day

So, why am I saying that I had the luck of the Irish today ? Well, the simple answer is that I was caught in a Cat 2 inbounds avalanche and got away with it with no worse than some knocks and bruises, a burial up to my armpits (thanks to avi training cutting in) and a lost ski - who gives a shit about a lost ski in these circumstances. More of all this later on at the appropriate point in today's report.
The official report was saying that we had 35cms of snow in the last 24 hours although I guess that most of this fell during the day yesterday and the snow base back to 330cms which is pretty good for this time of year. Overnight we seemed to have had some wet snow in the valley and on the way to the hill it was +1 at the base and about -3 on top, all of which suggested a cooling trend from yesterday.
Predictably I went to the New Side to get the snow up high which had been falling just about ok in White Pass as we left the hill yesterday. As I dropped Lift Line in super deep soft snow the potential problems of today emerged - just before White Pass base the surface became rather crusty which cause some problems in just letting the skis run. With Currie closed we looped Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees about five times waiting for the opening. The snow in Knot Chutes was just as good as yesterday and was deep and soft. Surprise Trees were a bit of a Surprise as about 6 turns in the surface started to go crusty and by the ski out exit it was quite ugly crud - I guess this was due to the rising rain line last night,
It snowed all morning and most of the afternoon and this did soften the crust a bit, but it was always there at a mid mountain level wherever you skied. The freeze line seemed to move up and down the hill all day so the point at which the crunch started and then changed to softer mush changed all day and was almost always a surprise.
They opened Curried Bowl and we had a good rip down Cougar Glades where the crunch band seemed to be fairly narrow in the mid section. Next time round we tried the Brain where the crunch section seemed much longer (from the cat track to the lower ski out) and our theory was that this was caused by snow/ice falling from the trees. The very last section of Skydive after the cut out was soft and fairly untracked. We then decided to hike up to Lone Fir and then ski the chutes.
We dropped Lone Fir one at a time as the snow seemed very unstable. I then took the lead on the pitch underneath and two turns in the whole slope let go and slid in a Cat 2 avi which carried me well over 100 metres down into the debris. Avi training cut in and I kicked off both skis and "swam" up all the time as hard as I could all through the slide. The result was that I ended up with my head and shoulders above the snow which was an awesome result although very scary. Patrol turned up and I was got out but with a ski missing and had to ski down to Tower 6 trail on one ski to get a snowmobile ride to base to file a full avi report at dispatch. The good news was that no one else was buried and the key learning points were that I had a helmet so my head was protected, I knew what to do from training and I was carrying a transceiver so if things had gone differently my chances of survival would still have been good. As always the Patrol were professional and highly competent in the way they handled the situation.
I grabbed my old Salomon Shoguns from the locker and headed out for the afternoon. This was a bit of a replay of the morning with loops in Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees and runs to base through Tom's and Currie Creek as the Easter side was now closed. The crunch line was just as evident as in the morning and the cloud descended so that we had some really bad viz as well as tough skiing under foot. As the adrenaline wore off and the effects of my slide cut in I decided that the only thing to do was to finish at 4 with a Skydive ripper. Of course we couldn't take the usual route in but by traversing hard after the last sign in Currie Creek we managed to get in half way down the first pitch and then rip it from there. We all thought the bottom section would be ugly but it had softened so we stayed on top of the slightly soft crunch and had a great rip.
In the bar tonight everyone was keen to buy me beer to celebrate my escape and I was in no mood to discourage them so I had a great Paddy's Day even if no one else did. Fine day forecast for tomorrow but then more snow in the outlook - can't wait.


  1. Hi B & L, Great to see you're back and to read about latest adventures. Well done with the swimming today! best to you both, Yx

  2. Thanks - hope to see you out here sometime