My guests had too much energy today. So I made them dig a 250cm deep snow pit!
I wanted to find the fattest snowpack and see how the DPWL was changing. Sure enough we found a 20cm thick Facet layer down 220cm that was alive and well below a solid snowpack. You can see in the photo the hollow where we scooped the loose Facets out with our hands. We didn't do any tests on the layer, but I wanted them to see what we were skiing on. Most people don't fully understand what weak layers we ski on. This is why it's so important to check the avalanche bulletin everyday, even if you plan on not skiing.
Today our main concern was the fresh windslab. The video shows this failure between the old snow and the most recent storm.
Appearance: planer slope immediately Lee of a ridgeline, large gradual convex roll
Extra layers for when you take a break or emergency
Extra gloves, hat
First Aid kit with an emergency space blanket
Repair kit for splitboard (extra binding parts, screws), screwdriver, (2-4) rubber ski straps (Valhalla Pure), duct tape, needle and thread, Leatherman or multi tool with knife, scraper.
Emergency device (cell phone, Delorme inreach/ spot SOS messenger, sat phone)
Have your pack set up for touring the night before so you don’t forget anything, double check the list before leaving the house for a solid day of touring.
Put your beacon on while getting dressed checking battery power.
Leave skins off skis till you get to the trailhead.
At the Trailhead:
Turn beacon on; check yours and the group member’s battery percentage.
Set up collapsible poles to your height, with your elbows making a 90 degree angle while holding the pole handles and the ski baskets on snow
Set up splitboard for skinning. Practice at home to be fast in the field in various weather conditions. For skinning swap the splitboard skis, so the straight inside metal edge is your outside edge while walking up hill. Place skins and bindings onto skis and strap in.
Delayer clothing so when you start skinning your at a cool temperature.
Have a member of the group do a beacon check before skinning for the day.
Take your time, walk at a speed so group members are able to have a conversation without feeling short of breath.
If breaking trail in the snow, keep the angle of the skintrack low, in the long run it keeps everyone’s energy levels up and is more efficient.
While leading make sure to know who is on the tail end and periodically look over your shoulder to ensure everyone is together.
While skinning on the snow, keep the skis on the snow and glide them rather then lifting.
Use your poles to engage your risers when the angle of the skintrack becomes too steep. Take off risers when angle of skintrack mellows out.
Practice makes perfect. Practice inside switching over from skis to snowboard and vice versa. Applying skins and taking them off and having a place for all your gear in your backpack mapped out. Makes it easier to organize yourself in the field and recognize if you forgot something.
Have a routine at the top;
Quickly stomp out a spot in the snow to switch over
Take off pack and place beside you
Collapse poles then place on/in pack
Unstrap bindings, step beside
Pick up one ski, take off binding and set aside, then take off skin and place on pack. Repeat with other ski. Then taking both skins and placing them in you pack or jacket. Finish putting splitboard together.
Grab an extra layer for the ride down, eat a snack, drink water, and a good time to fiddle with any gear before riding down.
Put on goggles and helmet, strap into your snowboard in a comfortable spot. You may need to stomp a spot in the snow to strap in.
Make sure where you strap in, your able to just roll into your line.
The above routine can be used for switching over from snowboard to skis as well. I find if you do your switch over first, then you have time to enjoy a break with snacks and water while everyone finishes their changeovers and discusses the plan for the run down or the route up.
Extra Helpful Tips:
If you find your skins are failing on you, pull over and take your skins off. Scrape any snow or ice off the adhesive side of your skin using the metal edge of your skin. Take 5 minutes and put your skins in jacket to warm up glue, to help the glue become more adhesive. If still failing use rubber ski straps or duct tape and wrap around skis and skins to help skin stay in place on ski.
As well on the ride down you can ride with your skins in your jacket to ensure the glue lasts longer through the day.
Be mindful of the terrain your splitboarding in and if you should keep your poles out or not. If your designated run isn’t fall line and you have to traverse or rolling over flat sections, keeping your poles out could benefit you.
Carrying a multi-tool, knife, and a scraper in your pants pockets can save you time on switchovers. If you need to scrape snow or ice off your board, or tighten some screws.
Learn what clothing layers works best for you in certain climates while touring, to reduce in sweating or getting soaked in wet climates.
Enjoy the journey of it all. It’s not all about bagging peaks and slaying lines, it’s about the whole process of connecting in the mountains with friends and loved ones. There’s a lifetime of lines out there to explore, enjoy the moment.
Some info from Snow Safety australia friend Anthony Von Chrismar
A pre-drop shot from a few years back, and a memorable one that led to barely holding an edge on beyond boiler plate ice, in an un-scoped line, arrested by a scantly penetrated axe and delicately transferring to crampons - a scenario that's been played out by others, I'm sure, and one that you can only learn from. This kind of thing happens with freeriding and you have to be prepared for it. The terrain in Australia may not have the consequence of close out bluffs and countless vertical below you, but a lost edge on an icey face in the main range can quickly lead to a major incident. A conversation with Adam West from MRBC the other day brought up the topic of rescues on the main range - the facts came out that, despite being an embarrassing event, an emergency response from SES may not be as quick as you think...you may be out there over night and fatigue, dehydration and hypothermia gets real very quickly on the main range. What that means is, you can't rely on others, you need to educate yourself and you need to be prepared. There's a bunch of other things to think about when riding more technical terrain. Aside from the usual: do I have a map/GPS?... do I know where I am?... does anyone know I'm here?..what's my emergency response plan/PLB?...how accessible is my PLB?... evaluation of snow/ice on different aspects read during the approach?..do I have the energy?...what's the group dynamics?...do I have time to drop this line?..., Entering a line in technical terrain requires consideration of: the snow pack stability/condition and therefore how do I ride it?....where's the exposure?....where's the safe zone?....if it's icey and you're a boarder is it likely to be a heel or toe edge that will give and require self arrest ?..and therefore how do I hold the ice axe for maximum efficacy for self arrest?.. are my crampons accessible?... how do I even transition to crampons on a 35-40 degree face when I've got one hand on an axe that can barely penetrate the ice and an edge that could slip at any point?...can I build an anchor? These and more are all aspects to consider to stay safe out there, especially if pushing your riding/skiing in more technical and remote terrain where it's really just comes down to your decisions.
The first thing on a center’s site is the current avalanche danger—low, moderate, considerable, high, extreme. Don’t stop once you’ve read that rating. Along with each rating is travel advice, as well as information on the likelihood of avalanches and where they may be found. For example, moderate danger, by definition, means there are heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features — natural avalanches are unlikely and human-triggered avalanches are possible. This means that one can find either small avalanches in specific areas or large avalanches in isolated areas. Since the consequences of small and large avalanches can be very different, you have to dig deeper, beyond just the danger rating, in order to understand what moderate danger means for your day.
UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
Forecast centers will often refer to the avalanche problem—storm slab, wind slab, persistent slab, deep slab, etc. Different problems require different management techniques and different terrain choices. Identify the avalanche problem(s) for the day, as this should help guide your route for the day. If it’s a year where the problem is persistent or deep slabs use extra caution. These problems are hard to predict and can fool everyone, even the most seasoned veteran.
KNOW IF THERE’S BEEN AVALANCHE ACTIVITY IN THE LAST 48 HOURS
Avalanche activity is Mother Nature screaming in your ear that instability exists. Therefore, seek out information about avalanche activity in your local area. If there has been recent avalanche activity, understand where it is taking place—what aspect, what elevation, and what weak layer. Consider how conditions have changed since the most recent reported avalanche activity and use this information to determine your terrain choices for the day.
UNDERSTAND PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE WEATHER
Weather creates the snowpack, which means that weather has a big influence on avalanche hazard. Seek out weather data on the forecast center’s sites or follow links to local weather stations. When studying the past weather, ask yourself the following:
How much snow has fallen in the last 24 to 48 hours? If it’s greater than 12 to 18 inches, the hazard has likely increased.
Has the wind been blowing? If yes, what direction has it been blowing from? How fast? For how long? Wind can move up to 10 times the amount of snow that can fall from the sky. Know where it is moving the snow.
What is the weather doing now? Is this different than the last 24 hours? Is the hazard decreasing or increasing?
What is the weather forecast for the day? If the weather is forecasted to continue in the same trend as the previous 24 hours, you have some good information to go on regarding changing stability. If it has been snowing for 48 hours and is forecasted to snow for the next 24 hours, you can assume that it is going to be a powder day and that the avalanche hazard is not decreasing in the next 24 hours and will likely increase.
LOOK FOR TRAVEL ADVICE Forecasters often add commentary to their forecasts. Read it. There are words of wisdom in there, and there’s often advice about terrain to avoid. Reading the avalanche forecast should be the start of your day. Once you’ve read it, you can choose terrain that is appropriate for the hazard, as well as for your group. Remember that the forecast is just that…a forecast, not the law of the land. Avalanche forecasters are issuing a danger rating for large areas in the mountains, and many variables, including terrain features, terrain positioning relative to storm tracks and local weather patterns, can influence slope-scale hazard. The forecast that the avalanche center issues should be used as a hypothesis for your travel day. Test it while you are in the field and prove or disprove the hazard rating through snow and weather observations. If it’s not adding up, adjust your route and report your finding back to the center. And if you’re ever in doubt, choose simpler terrain.
There is a solid sun crust from melt / freeze cycle since the last snow fall on the 03/09/15. This snowfall is well preserved below the 10cm of crust on the surface. The depth of the preserved snow is approx. 20cm. this is sitting on another well defined hard layer. We got a CT2 RP on this 20cm layer of new snow on both columns but there were no other persistent issue further down in the snow pack.
Pit was on a NE aspect @ 1980m with a 32 deg slope. Snow pack depth was 180cm
Pit results from the Avalanche course on the weekend.
Alt 1750m Aspect SE First CT test
CT16 RP @ 30cm CT 21 RP @ 80cm
Snow depth 115cm
Second CT test
No results from Hand shear test during the day. SE Wind is loading NW aspects. Conditions witnessed in the early morning were icy which softened up during the day. Air temps stayed cold but snow on Nth aspects turned to slush in the PM. SE aspects stayed hard and icy throughout the day