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Author Topic: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking  (Read 43931 times)
natefred
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #25 on: 11/25/09, 10:23 AM »

Thanks for sharing your story.  Being in unfamiliar terrain in the first place was probably a bad idea on Sunday given the conditions and potential implications of being even slightly "off-route".  Good job getting down together and in one piece.
The thing I take home from this is your comment about sapping your energy early and fatigue's contribution to making poor choices.
I think you're being receptive to the helpful comments being posted, and am impressed at your restraint in taking your lashings from the audience.
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hypermartyr
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #26 on: 11/25/09, 10:27 AM »

Thanks Kneel Turner... that is fantastic advice!  Much more helpful than PNWBrit's advice about not going into the mountains.
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Marcus
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #27 on: 11/25/09, 10:43 AM »

Thanks for wading back into the thread and taking some lickings along with the advice.  The thing that stuck out for me in your follow-up was this:

We are both well trained in avalanche safety

It sound like heuristics played a big role here:  being in the area, skiing with a buddy for the first time in a long while, the excitement over lots of new snow.  As others have mentioned, the human factor of the avalanche triangle is perhaps the hardest to get a handle on.  While you may be well trained in how to use your beacons to dig someone out, or how to dig a pit and see what the layers look like, there's obviously a lot more to it than that.

New area, fatigue, "too eager to get to the top", crappy visibility... a bad combination on a good day, let alone high hazard.  I'd recommend taking an Avy 1 or 2 class again to refresh your skills.  I go through some degree of class and field work for avy safety every year and the human factor is always the most complex.

Good luck, travel safe.  PNWBrit's not pulling punches -- the conditions and decisions you describe do sound like a "how not to do it" guide.  That doesn't mean you have to do it that way next time.
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PNWBrit
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #28 on: 11/25/09, 10:58 AM »

Much more helpful than PNWBrit's advice about not going into the mountains.

That's not what I was saying at all  Roll Eyes

How, when, where, why, with who and being able to do so again.

But obviously you'd know that being "well trained in avy safety"?







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Joedabaker
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #29 on: 11/25/09, 03:33 PM »

The disturbing thing to me was that there were multiple visitors from the same area, not just Hyper's.
Like This One
This one showed some pretty savvy work in one of the more protected areas in a bigger dump, but there are still areas of concern there as mentioned if not handled well. This Report sounded pretty responsible

The avy forecast the day before did call for considerable danger for Sunday. I have skied in considerable danger before and not even seen a sluff all day, so I have to call it as I see it. Predictions are just that, talk about slides, heck the Seahawks were PREDICTED to be a good team this year. I work on being impartial to my goals. so my judgment is for the good of myself and the group. Never feel bad about turning around.

I've read that males have a higher percentage of getting buried, if there is a female in the party the percentage goes way down, unless the testosterone Genie comes out of the bottle to show there is something to prove.
As previously mentioned by others, Summit Fever plays a factor and....Well we drove all this way so we need to do it! Not- there is a ski resort right there, get a ticket and really have some fun with your buddy.
Of course as mentioned already unknown terrain, fog, energy zapped blah, blah blah...

Knowing the forecast is huge, I was one of the last to witness the loss of three snowboarders, who eventually got buried by an avalanche in the same area a couple years ago. I was interviewed several times and always asked, why did you survive and they died? I always answered that I knew a big storm was coming on and I left myself options to leave. When the storm came we went home, their plans were to do an overnight.
One good rule of thumb is that when things are in extreme swings, like extreme volume of new snow or extreme temperature increase (1st Warmup of the year). Those are good days to NOT be out in the BC. Knowing ahead of the potential is a bonus so you don't get trapped out in the boonies and the temp rises 30 degrees.

Not that this was a factor for you guys, but needs to be mentioned.
One of my biggest fears is not to bury the unsuspecting person below me, just because they are skinning below me does not give me the right to ski above them in higher danger.
The other day I waited 15 mins for the only guy that must have been where I wanted to ski to get his skins on and get out of the way, finally I had to traverse to a safe zone and find another run to avoid potentially burying him.

Lastly....for now. If it makes you feel better...
I have noticed the huge increase in BC travel over the last year.
It amazes me that I have dodged so many BC bullets over my 30 plus years of ski touring. I have knowingly and unknowingly put myself in harms way so many times, I have forgotten a majority of my epic stories of the past. Even with the tutelage of some very savvy BC guys I still have to go out and make my mistakes. It takes time, patience and a little luck to be able to identify the endless factors of safety and still have a good time. Animal with 9 posts, said that they saw for the first time what propagating snow looked like. I can read till I have an avalanche book memorized, but that does not give me the field experience to identify conditions as they unfold. And the awareness to pull the plug if it is not working out. I am on the conservative side now, while other friends are less conservative, yet I have been the one who has taken the most rides in avys. Go figure? Not for a moment do I let my guard down, looking, feeling, hearing, learning...I just keep working a standard protocol in all conditions so I don't get caught off my game when it counts most. The journey of mountain travel and avalanche awareness is an endless trail.
« Last Edit: 11/25/09, 03:47 PM by Joedabaker » Logged
Scotsman
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #30 on: 11/25/09, 03:54 PM »

Good stuff Joe, but I think the avy danger that day was rated 4= high, not 3= considerable.
I could be wrong but if it was a 4 I think that's significant to this discussion.

I like many others will tour on a 3 day as usually that's the best snow. I personally will not tour on a 4 day, not just because of the danger but mainly because the terrain I would have to choose to feel comfortable on a day like that would be low angle wallowing. Now I know there's always micro-climates etc  but why take the risk.

The thing that has bothered me more by Hypermartyr's decision to tour that day ( and others who decided the same) ( and he should be congratulated by allowing this discussion to revolve around him without resorting to rancor) is why did he( and others )decided to go touring that day!
I can only come up with the following reasons.

1. Didn't check Avy report and didn't know.( Very bad)
2. Thought they where an avy experts and could find a safe area( heuristic trap)
3. Had decided to go no matter what since the boys hadn't skied together for a while : goal orientated ( Heuristic trap)
4. Wanted to post a spectacular post on TAY and get adulation( Very bad)
5. Untracked snow is scarce and I'll get some up there. ( heuristic trap)

The initial decision to go is what bothers me and I just don't understand why they (or the others )made that decision that day.
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natefred
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #31 on: 11/25/09, 04:16 PM »

The only real avalanche incident I remember being mentioned in any of the reports from this locale seems to have been within the resort (waist-deep burial in Powder Bowl?).  If you want a heuristic trap to talk about, how about the unquestionable brilliance of the decision to stay within the safe confines of the ski area?
I'm ready for some thread drift, I think hypermartyr gets the point.
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Scotsman
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #32 on: 11/25/09, 04:25 PM »

  If you want a heuristic trap to talk about, how about the unquestionable brilliance of the decision to stay within the safe confines of the ski area?

Now you're just being silly! Hows that for thread drift. Roll Eyes
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Joedabaker
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #33 on: 11/25/09, 04:51 PM »

Good stuff Joe, but I think the avy danger that day was rated 4= high, not 3= considerable.
I could be wrong but if it was a 4 I think that's significant to this discussion.

The report that I read, (at least I thought) was that the danger was considerable or a 3.
That was Saturday. The problem with avy reports is that they are usually issued later than when the tires are on the road in the morning. That can be solved with a cell phone with web data, but I am to cheap for that luxury. My field assessment for the day was that the danger was a 4 or 5. That is why the skins stayed in the car, all avy gear on and skied upper and lower bull run all day checking frequently with friends. Tree wells are just as dangerous on a day like that, what I think is solid snow around a tree can liquefy in seconds and end up in a hole head first. That may have happened a couple times to Hyper and buddy. Or as stated the snow on leeward sides of rollovers or rock faces tend to release real quickly.
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Joedabaker
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #34 on: 11/25/09, 05:34 PM »

The only real avalanche incident I remember being mentioned in any of the reports from this locale seems to have been within the resort (waist-deep burial in Powder Bowl?).  If you want a heuristic trap to talk about, how about the unquestionable brilliance of the decision to stay within the safe confines of the ski area?
Even worse, That was Lucky Shot!

But this was reported in Bullion Basin by Animal.
Boo (split boarder) and myself were also in the area above Bullion Basin.  I set off a pretty good size soft slab that flowed around me as I stood still on the slope.  I would say it was a soft slab just over one foot thick.  that definately was my first time seeing the obvouus cracking split ahead of me on the snow.  I was able to work my way our of the snow, and we headed home!  Great power day!
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eric
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #35 on: 11/25/09, 05:53 PM »

This is quite the blowhard thread.
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kneel turner
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #36 on: 11/25/09, 06:16 PM »

Ahh Ha!  The TGR Troll has revealed himself!
-It's Eric

Joe, Don't forget (as I often do) NWAC has a phone # 206-526-6677.

I think if you own more than 5 pairs of skis, you're not to cheap to have a cell phone.  Right?

...and I always make an effort to peek in at CM Patrol to sign out, check the forecast, and chat about conditions.  These guys are equipped and trained to save yo' ass if you need help.  The least you can do is let em know where you're going.  (disclaimer: It is recommended that you always be equipped, and trained to save yo' own ass).
« Last Edit: 11/25/09, 08:26 PM by kneel turner » Logged

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haggis
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #37 on: 11/25/09, 07:07 PM »

I believe the initial rating was a 3 but this changed when I looked again on Monday.  The Monday rating also included Sunday which was increased to a 4 - obviously a more representative rating of the Crystal conditions but of no use being a day later.  No substitute for field observations as Joe states.
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Snow Bell
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #38 on: 11/27/09, 12:48 PM »

Great discussion.  This is an excellent example of how the BC ski community comes together here for the benefit of all involved.

I have a thing or two to add.
Scotty and Joeda (and others) seem to take issue with anyone choosing to tour out of Crystal on Sunday:

The disturbing thing to me was that there were multiple visitors from the same area, not just Hyper's.

The initial decision to go is what bothers me and I just don't understand why they (or the others )made that decision that day.

While I agree that HM's account reads like "what not to do" and I strongly encourage him to reevaluate his ability to assess and mitigate exposure, I assert that not everyone who toured from Crystal that day suffered from the same apparent ignorance or delusions.

I was there with two friends and our approach was calculated and methodical.  When our plan came together Saturday night, our party was fully aware that the avy danger could be high.  We consulted telemetry and forecasts and discussed our findings as well as their implications for our tour.  Our dialogue continued on the drive up as we debated various routes and scenarios focused squarely on eliminating our exposure to the predicted instability.  We settled on a route that would allow us to travel safely in fairly dense trees on moderately angled slopes.  As Kyle mentioned earlier in the thread, we checked in (and signed out) with patrol seeking any additional information available to us there before proceeding.

Our route took us into the trees immediately and at no time in our tour did we stray onto an open slope.  We managed to travel in well protected terrain nearly the entire time. We practiced good protocol by frequently inspecting the snow pack, keeping space between us, and discussing our circumstances regularly.  I suspect that a critical avy expert could point out imperfections in our approach but we were constantly diligent and on guard.
When we reached a point where we were below an open slope and no longer able to continue on with the protection of the forest, we recognized and discussed our exposure and opted to retreat.  This decision was reinforced by a natural slide from the basin above that came down along our flank.  This was the only activity that we witnessed that day and we would not have been able to clearly identify the trigger nor gauge the size without climbing higher (although from what I could see, I surmised that it was a fairly shallow wind deposit catalyzed by a tree bomb or snow blown off the ridge).  This was the only point in the tour which I felt we had not effectively eclipsed our exposure although I was and am comfortable with the degree of  risk assumed at that point.  (If Kyle or Brad have a different take on the circumstances, I encourage them to contribute it to the dialogue.)

The thing that has bothered me more by Hypermartyr's decision to tour that day ( and others who decided the same) ( and he should be congratulated by allowing this discussion to revolve around him without resorting to rancor) is why did he( and others )decided to go touring that day!
I can only come up with the following reasons.

1. Didn't check Avy report and didn't know.( Very bad)
2. Thought they where an avy experts and could find a safe area( heuristic trap)
3. Had decided to go no matter what since the boys hadn't skied together for a while : goal orientated ( Heuristic trap)
4. Wanted to post a spectacular post on TAY and get adulation( Very bad)
5. Untracked snow is scarce and I'll get some up there. ( heuristic trap)
I will not to comment directly on my partners motivations for being there that day but to add a couple of other reasons to Scotty’s list:

1. Experience.  This was my primary reason for being there that particular day.  I believe (as some of you do) that safe touring can be found in all but the most extreme avalanche conditions.  I welcome the opportunity to participate in and observe the mitigation of  avalanche danger during instability.  I have had the benefit of touring with some of the “saltiest dogs” on such days and learned much.  I love to ski powder (and intend on doing it for quite some time) but not nearly as much as I love my two young children so I am ever vigilant in educating myself about the myriad facets of terrain management and stability evaluation.  I believe that safely experiencing such conditions is an invaluable tool in recognizing and knowing how to deal with instability.  Clearly text and instruction are valuable resources but as HM’s account seems to illustrate, devoid of in the field practice and analysis, the “knowledge” gained thusly can predispose one to make erroneous assessments and lead to dangerous overconfidence.  If my approach is significantly flawed or my reasoning unsound, please let me know as I recognize that many of you have a more comprehensive understanding of the skill set I seek.  It is not trial and error so much as trial and err on the side of caution.  Wink

2. Exercise.  Nothing will get your touring legs under you faster than trenching two foot ditches for a few hours.

3. New boots.  Day three in my Spirit 3’s.  I hope to get some time in them before multi-day trips or dangerous descents.

4. Powder.  I love to be in it.  I had no intentions of dropping steep lines and claiming face shots, I knew well in advance that that would not be in the cards for us that day.  Had it been a weekday I would have dropped 60 bones at the resort to get some but as it was a weekend and I figured inbounds powder would be short lived,  I opted to plod around in knee deep goodness with my pals.  Good times.
« Last Edit: 11/27/09, 01:10 PM by Snow Bell » Logged

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Scotsman
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #39 on: 11/28/09, 03:41 PM »

Since I drove the three of you there and drove the three of you back I can confirm that you all engaged in good discussions about your objective , the avy danger, weather conditions and wind directions , protocol and logging in with Patrol. I was involved in the discussion also.

I wouldn't have gone that day but I respect the reasons you made in going although I was a bit worried about you all for the rest of the day and relieved when you called in.
Joe and I have a wee bit of history with that part of the woods so excuse ( can't talk for Joe) my perhaps, emotional response to those touring that day.

Your point is good about going out in High avy danger days to see the avy beast.
Andrew Mclean wrote an intersting article once about going out in high and extreme conditions to go " into the dragon's den to see the dragon." He stressed the fact that you have to be extremely cautious in terms of terrain choice and protocol" to go see the dragon" and return safely and you guys obviously followed that. Grin
BTW your point4. is basically the same as my point 5 and still a heuristic trap Wink
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NWBCer
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #40 on: 11/29/09, 11:39 AM »

Excellent thread, nice of you gents for not dropping the gloves on the martyr and sweater-ing him (think NHL)...
But the "We are both well trained in avalanche safety" comment raised my eyebrows as I did not detect anything in any of martyr's posts to back this up. Not slamming you here man, I just didn't come away with that impression.

The coolest, greatest thing I will take from this thread is the quote from Joeda:

"...That is why the skins stayed in the car, all avy gear on and skied upper and lower bull run all day checking frequently with friends. Tree wells are just as dangerous on a day like that, what I think is solid snow around a tree can liquefy in seconds and end up in a hole head first..."

Yeah Joe, I've never really thought of this before "all avy gear on" (read heuristic trap avoided). Why wouldn't you on occasion? Thanks for that!
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jwplotz
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #41 on: 11/29/09, 07:52 PM »

The horse is dead...(I'm a thread killer).
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hypermartyr
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #42 on: 11/29/09, 08:06 PM »

I second the motion...
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russ
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #43 on: 11/29/09, 09:00 PM »

The coolest, greatest thing I will take from this thread is the quote from Joeda:

"...That is why the skins stayed in the car, all avy gear on and skied upper and lower bull run all day checking frequently with friends. Tree wells are just as dangerous on a day like that, what I think is solid snow around a tree can liquefy in seconds and end up in a hole head first..."

I think hypermartyr has truly done his duty and the hook should be removed.... As far as the above quote, tree wells are the reason I ski with my avalung out in early season.
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Rusty Knees
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #44 on: 11/30/10, 10:29 PM »

On a lighter note, there's some sweet A/T boots on Tramdock right now!

Now it's my turn to say WTF?  AT boots!  Ed?  don't go there, buddy.
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savegondor
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Re: November 22, 2009 - Cement Basin Bushwhacking
« Reply #45 on: 12/02/10, 10:28 AM »

This Thread is NOT dead because this is a discussion about getting NOT DEAD.

I found one of the most helpful things about this post to be cookiemonster and his cool 3D map.  the weather forecast for that would also have sent me to the old growth of Commonwealth or Stevens....places where I know I can find 20 degree trees without avi paths or terrain traps.  I think a major lack in this discussion was the terrain.... regardless of the avi forecast.  Combine the weather forecast with the terrain and I think you had a clear no-go with Cement basin.  I mean seriously the idea of heading out into unknown terrain in a whiteout?

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm always poring over topos even when the danger is 'low'.  I like to have my multiple egress's in mind wherever I'm skiing.  and as cookie monster's map points out, places like Cement (or Alpental valley etc) are totally out on days of rapid snowfall, and high winds. 

My lesson already this season was skinning Alpental a couple weeks ago.  Only 20" at the base but on the approach to the cliffs under Upper International the steeper slopes were sluffing and cracking in 45-50 inches of snow...and then I looked up and remembered that really I had been in potential slide paths the whole time...and had no knowledge of the snowpack up high (the telemetry at Alpental summit is seriously frakked).  I peeled and fled despite what might have been only moderate danger (sluffing was on the 8" of new that had accumulated in the past two hours!!! and was cohesive enough to be slabby).  My lesson:  even the base area of Alpental is smack in the middle of avi zones on a day like what was listed above.  Plus I would like to say that I come from the Rockies... and I get real nervous when the snow at the Summit is like the snow in Red Lodge Montana.  pure crap from a stability standpoint. 
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