Tag Archives: Avalanche Video

What’s in your backpack? Stacking the deck in your favor

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Just a few days ago, while gazing over at the destruction from the recent avalanche in Bear Pits at Crystal Mountain, a fellow patroller and I discussed the merits of the

Backcountry Access Float30

avalanche floatation backpacks. Essentially these contraptions are designed to keep an avalanche victim on the surface if caught in a slide with large balloons that inflate with the pull of a string, much like a PFD would do in the water.

A few patrollers have tested BCA’s Float 30 airbag, wearing it on avalanche control days. The system fits inside a backpack with room for shovel, probe and other equipment. It adds a bit of weight and bulk to an already heavy pack loaded with explosives. But as you’ll see in the video below, that extra 8 lbs just might save your life.

Check out this video below of a skier in Alaska getting caught in an avalanche and deploying the unit, which keeps him on top. I find this video a little horrifying, especially the moment when the slab starts to break up and the skier hesitates. I can only imagine what’s going through his mind. Oh no. What do I do now? But surprisingly, through it all, the guy never screams or says a word–the audio only picks up the sound of the snow and air moving across the mic. I’d say this guy is one lucky dude.

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Climax Avalanches at Crystal: Unusual Snowpack Causing Big Slides

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Rock Face Slide with Debris Below

 


 

During the past two days, we have had some very large avalanches at Crystal. Yesterday Rock Face slid to the ground. Center Chute went naturally and the rest was shot with explosives. The debris went well into Kelly’s Gap Road, ripping up 100 year old timber and redefining the path. A 150cm crown now extends along the top of the face, around the chutes and all the way across Upper and Lower Eagles. Thankfully, no one was caught or injured in these slides. But the destructive nature of avalanches are quite a force to behold. The sound of trees snapping below Rock Face (in the Berry Patch area and below) could be heard throughout the base area yesterday.Kelly’s Gap will, most likely, remain closed for the remainder of the season, as the piles of debris and broken trees are nearly fifty feet high in places.

Rock Face Debris Over Kelly's Gap Road

6 foot crown in Bear Pits

Today we saw a similar result in Bear Pits, where huge, old trees lay scatteredĀ amongst the thirty foot piles of debris at the bottom. The trees that were left standing show evidence of the massive force. Notice in this photo how high up in the tree the

Broken Branches Caused by Avalanche

Broken Branches Caused by Avalanche

limbs were pulled off. The cedars pictured on the right have been completely denuded of branches.

Bear Pits Debris

These slides are a result of persistent weak layers, such as the rain crust from MLK weekend. Regardless of the snow at the surface (today we have four inches of fresh over the rain-soaked pack), the snowpack is moving. Much like a glacier, a heavy spring snowpack, like ours, can creep and glide down the hill, often times causing massive climax avalanches. Today, if you were to poke your ski pole into the snow, you might even think it was stable–just a few inches of new over the still-unfrozen slush. No big deal, you might think.

Think again.

We are currently experiencing very unusual conditions in the snowpack, and until it stabilizes, we will continue to monitor it and try to mitigate the hazard with explosives and closures. Please be cautious out there, and save the backcountry tours until the snowpack settles out.

Check out this video of one of the Rock Face slides yesterday.

Avalanche Video

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Kyle Miller recently posted a video on his website: Where Is Kyle Miller? featuring Crystal’s backcountry. While the first six minutes or so showcase lovely powder turns, with face shots clouding the lens, it’s the last few seconds of the video that I find worth watching. The camera captures a rider dropping into a chute off the backside of Crystal and cutting off a large, cohesive slab. Fortunately neither of the riders were caught in the slide, but the debris piling up against the trees at the bottom demonstrates the danger of this slide.

I’ve heard a few skiers calling the backcountry conditions “solid” lately. They are anything but. Huge slab avalanches have occurred in the b.c. around Mt. Hood Meadows, Mt. Baker Ski Area and Crystal Mountain. Avalanche hunters beware.