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Author Topic: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11  (Read 81365 times)
jwplotz
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #50 on: 04/08/11, 10:48 AM »

I'm not sure anyone here "expects"...

I beg to differ. Hit "ALL", start at the top, read each post and you will see there is a clear expectation for personal accountability in his decision to ski.
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Jim Oker
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #51 on: 04/08/11, 10:56 AM »

Hmm, regarding the expectation that there will be a detailed report, when I followed your instructions and scanned the entire thread just now, all I see is folks responding to Marcus' first post on the thread where he wrote:
Quote
Much more detail to follow.

Plus a few posts with armchair quarterbacking, which is a separarate issue that seems to have died down.
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Joedabaker
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #52 on: 04/08/11, 10:58 AM »


I think it frustrates us all to see knowledgable and professional friends caught in these situations but I believe it is only fair to be patient enough to let them have their say before castigating them.



Amen to that brother. No need to make a stew out of a bunch of hear say and conjecture.
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Mofro
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #53 on: 04/08/11, 11:44 AM »

Glad everyone made it out safely despite a few being broken. Here's hoping the broken mend quickly and are able to return soon to the sport we all love. 

While many are looking for the answers to how this incident evolved and the details, none are owed or expected to me. When these events happen to experienced backcountry travelers it is usually due to the intersection of confidence, desire, complacency, and sometimes "bad luck". Those who stand to gain the most are the individuals involved.

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not always bad
gravitymk
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #54 on: 04/08/11, 02:30 PM »

I beg to differ. Hit "ALL", start at the top, read each post and you will see there is a clear expectation for personal accountability in his decision to ski.

I rear read the posts, again.
Seems to me that most of the posts like Amar's are showing interest in reading a trip report, if and when Marcus chooses to post.

Call it a difference of interpretation and semantics I guess.
« Last Edit: 04/09/11, 02:59 PM by gravitymk » Logged
Marcus
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #55 on: 04/08/11, 02:59 PM »

This first portion will be primarily a description of the climb.† I'll follow with the slide and the ensuing self-rescue and organized SAR response, from my perspective.† A more thorough analysis of the decisions and mistakes will follow.† I deliberately went with a "trip report" style format in this part, to try to capture the mood of our trip up so that I could better understand where my decision making failed.

To be clear, I am writing this as much for me and my friends and family as I am for anyone else.† The lessons I take from this will be more deeply ingrained because of this process.† If others can learn from it, so much the better.

****************

The Climb

Iíve said for years that if I ever had to use my avalanche transceiver, Iíve screwed up big time.† But here I am, having just hacked a wad of snow the size of a tangerine out of my throat, switching to receive and hoping to hear a sound.† Iíve screwed up big time.

--

Roger, Doug, Dan, Drew and I met at the Mercer Island Park & Ride a little after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, aiming to get in a dawn patrol at Snoqualmie Pass and be back in town by 10:30.† We piled into Doug & Danís cars and headed up to Alpental, excited for fresh snow and new company.† Roger and I had already discussed the telemetry, expecting upward of two feet of snow on the upper slopes and knowing that any notions weíd had of skiing the Slot or the Snot were not going to happen.† The plan was to head up and see what we found Ė beyond that we didnít discuss it much.

We arrived at the maintenance lot and hit the trail by 6:15.† Trailbreaking was arduous, Roger plowing ahead through 12-18Ē of light dry snow, with pockets up to waist deep.† We knew this wasnít going to be a one-hour blast to the top and switched trailbreakers from time to time as we climbed through the trees to the left of the Phantom.† We could feel the layers in the top few feet of the snowpack, with the obvious mushy rain soaked snow about a pole length down.

Progress through the trees eased as we got farther up, the SW slopes of Snoqualmie rolling back below the steeper upper pitches above the entrance to the Snot couloir.† The snow remained excellent and, while we could get the new snow to break in soft slabs on the steeper kick turns, we continued up, spreading out as we began to encounter steeper sections.† Roger was breaking trail again, doing a good job of picking a line with minimal exposure to the Snot entrance.

It was now 9:00, the first 2600 feet having taken almost three hours.† We had a brief discussion about timing, as Doug and I both had to be back in town before the others.† We talked about continuing up another couple hundred feet to the Slot entrance, just to look, then returning back down.† I felt I had enough time to make it work, so we pressed on.

We traversed back to the right, climbing away from the ridge.† The trail breaking was easier near the ridge, maybe 6-12Ē, and the wind had picked up.† I put on my thicker gloves and gave Roger some space.† He pointed out a couple of features to avoid on the trip down Ė places heíd seen slide activity in his past trips.

As we wrapped a little farther away from the ridge, we came into deeper pockets of snow, particularly in the many small gully/concavity features on the upper slopes.† The snow seemed a bit more reactive on the kickturns, the soft slabs a little more cohesive.† No whumphing or shooting cracks, but the exposed upper slopes were definitely showing some new signs.

Roger cut out across the bottom of a steeper section, perhaps 60 feet wide.† I waited in a pocket of trees for him to clear it then, when he put in a kickturn below a few thick trees, I zipped over to him quickly, so that I could watch him climb back across in the other direction.† I checked behind me and saw that Dan had followed me across the slope and was with me at the turn.† Too late now, I thought, and then I looked back to Roger and the crack rips out above him and he is falling and I am falling and we have screwed up big time.
« Last Edit: 04/09/11, 03:28 PM by Marcus » Logged
climberdave
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #56 on: 04/08/11, 03:29 PM »

Marcus, part one of your accident is intense (and is the nightmare of every skier) Cry

I'm glad that you and everyone else made it back alive.
 
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GerryH
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #57 on: 04/08/11, 04:16 PM »

Thank you so much for sharing Marcus. I'm saying that as both an avalanche educator & fellow backcountry skier - one who has made my share of mistakes but has just been luckier.† I am† still susceptible to making such mistakes again. That's why your story has such great value in the telling - it will give cause & pause for reflection by many.†
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Mattski
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #58 on: 04/08/11, 04:39 PM »

Thank you Marcus, I am sorry you guys found yourselves in that position. It is a great lesson in communication, observations and the impacts it has.

I wish you all a seedy recovery!
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Passenger
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #59 on: 04/08/11, 05:02 PM »

Marcus Ė I am glad that the outcome to your adventure was not as bad as it could have been.   From having personally gone through a similar situation I would just like to make a couple of comments.  Hopefully by telling your story you will get others to think about their own decision making.  It may be hard to believe now but in time your memories of the details will begin to fade. How much you post online is entirely up to you but for your own benefit I suggest that while everything is still fresh in your mind you write a journal including all the small details of that day and most importantly your emotions as the events unfolded.  I donít think you will regret it. You are probably going to hear a lot of second guessing from the peanut gallery but I would be willing to bet that anyone who has spent any amount of time in the backcountry has made their own fair share of bad decisions with the only difference being that they were fortunate enough to get away with it.  Hopefully you will soon be back in the saddle a little older and a little wiser.

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checker
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #60 on: 04/08/11, 06:22 PM »

This is really fascinating...I've never skied in this area of the Pass, though, so I'm trying to visualize the terrain...does anyone have a photograph or maybe a link to a trip report with pictures?
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trees4me
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #61 on: 04/08/11, 06:43 PM »

Thanks for sharing this Marcus.  Please don't feel pressured to share more than you want.  Many of us are just glad everyone is ok.

I was up there Sunday afternoon, which may have been a bad decision on my part.  I'm really anxious to hear your groups decision making for comparison and to see if there were any different signs along the way...
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chill people, skiing is fun
nordique
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #62 on: 04/08/11, 07:59 PM »

This is really fascinating...I've never skied in this area of the Pass, though, so I'm trying to visualize the terrain...does anyone have a photograph or maybe a link to a trip report with pictures?

Here are two photos from the Volken guide, about the Phantom:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nordique/5601636571/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nordique/5602220626
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garyabrill
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #63 on: 04/08/11, 09:41 PM »

I am also glad to hear that all in your party are alive and relatively speaking fortunate that nothing worse happened.

I think it is great that you, Marcus, are willing to share some of what you learned from this event. I think to a degree TAY can have the effect of pushing some skiers and boarders to do more really than their experience would suggest as individuals learn about the next great thrill in the backcountry. And sharing trip reports is sometimes just fluff. So, it is great when something of such value is presented as an opportunity for some of the less experienced among us to learn in a way that really comes home and to serve as an important reminder for the more experienced that it can happen anytime we let our guard down.

Fortunately, I think there is a tendency when one does report an incident for the audience to be not judgemental, but rather to just listen and learn.

I think Fresh's reference to Tremper's analogy is a valuable addition to this thread. I know from my own experience that I've had a couple of close calls that fit the Tremper model well.

I sometimes think about Tremper's confidence vs time graph in these situations. One's confidence in avalanche terrain gradually rises over time with periodic crashes when something bad happens. An avalanche ride, serious injury, death of a friend, etc.† I know in my own avy career I have made a few mistakes, had a close call or two, and probably gotten lucky. But I haven't taken a ride or been injured. I know that's no guarantee it won't happen in the future though.


Nordique's posting of the map should help those who don't know Phantom Slide. The press described it as south facing when in reality it is just slightly south of west facing. Phantom slide was created by a large avalanche in 1990 and is just opposite the main Alpental parking lot.
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nordique
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #64 on: 04/08/11, 10:18 PM »

Thanks, Gary.  I learned a lot about the recent leader ground fall at the Seattle gym from Adam and about how to avoid similar incidents in the future.  Incident reports are great learning experiences.
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JimG
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #65 on: 04/08/11, 10:26 PM »

Sobering to hear, glad everyone survived and can only wonder how many times I have been only a few feet or fractions of a PSI away from the same situation...

A question we should all ponder.  Are we smart or just lucky?
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Marcus
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #66 on: 04/08/11, 11:21 PM »

This part is way more stream of consciousness and I apologize if itís harder to read.† Just getting it out of my head.

The Slide

The crack is silent and none of us make a sound as the slabís blocks dissolve into powder.† I slide on the surface, still in the light, trying to pound the head of my whippet into the bed surface.† Iím already moving too fast.†

Iíve forgotten my avalung!

Grab it, shove it into my mouth.† And then Iím under, tumbling in the stiff liquid foam, like rolling around in a mixing bowl of well-whipped meringue.

Anastasia is going to be so pissed at me if I die here.

What else?† Fight!† Swim for the surface, make an air pocket, stick your hand up!† Itís all coming back, but when will this slide end?

SMACK!† Iíve hit my head on something.† Iím still conscious, no pain Ė Iím okay.† Fight more, make an air pocket, stick your hand up!† Iíve lost my avalung.† Thereís snow in my mouth.† I canít breathe I canít breathe I canít breathe.

Stick your hand up!

And Iíve stopped.† I canít see but itís light.† I sit up, covered only in a thin coating of fine powder.† Iím up against a big tree and I canít breathe.† Stand up, have to cough!† Harder!† GASP!† Huge volumes, lungfuls, barrelfuls of air, a wad of snow like a tangerine, discolored from being in my throat, lying on the ground.

I can finally look around.† I see Roger.† Heís uphill about 250 feet, on the surface.† I take out my beacon and switch to receive Ė nothing.† Not a peep.† Iím too far even from Roger and Iíve yet to grasp how far down Iíve come from the crown.† Dan must be above me somewhere.

I try to shout to Roger, but my voice is hoarse from the snow.† He sees me.†

ďDo you have Dan?Ē† He canít hear me.† I try to ask him to switch his beacon, but then I see Drew way up above and heís yelling to Roger too, so I wait.† Drew has Dan.† Thank god, okay.† Roger starts scooting down to me on his butt, unable to stand Ė I start climbing up to meet him.† Crap, I can barely lift my right leg!† I can stand no problem, but man is it tender.† I must have banged it on a tree and not felt it Ė okay, weíll have the hands help too.† My head feels all right.† No loss of consciousness, no pain, no vision trouble.

I find one of my poles and itís then that I realize that everything else is gone.† Both skis and my whippet have checked out Ė thank god the skis came off my feet.

Roger and I finally come together.† He looks good.† Good airway, no obvious trauma.† I try to switch into EMT mode as my brain is firing 1000 miles an hour.† His knees hurt Ė okay, we expose them and they look okay.† Tender and some bruising already, but no obvious deformity and no open injuries.† No other complaints.

Drewís here too and he helps make Roger comfortable.† He tells me that Danís probably got a broken leg.† I ask him about first aid background and tell them both Iím an EMT and ski patroller, just so we all know where everyone is.† Drew offers me his skis if I think I can make it up to Dan.† I click in (Dynafit fittings on the NTN boots, thankfully) and make my way up.† Drew yells up that heís calling 911 Ė good, get them moving.† Itíll take a while and weíll need at least two litters, assuming I can walk out, which Iím quite determined to do.

Both my legs are cramping and my right leg is on fire.† Skinning on these fat, long skis on the avalancheís bed surface is a challenge.† I finally see Dan and yell up to get his condition.† Heís pretty sure heís broken his right femur and thinks he may have broken the tibia too.† Crap.† I try to motor, but I have only one speed.

Dan is a tough guy.† My initial exam reveals no real pain in the lower leg and, though he complains of pain in the thigh I have a hard time believing heís broken his femur.† This is the injury thatís supposed to be the closest a man can come to the pain of childbirth Ė heís barely grimacing.† But sure enough, tightly bound muscles and an obvious deformity up high prove him right.† I call the Operations Leader for the Ski Patrol Rescue Team and give him the details.† Heís just received the word from King County SAR and is working on spinning up the mission.

Dan is managing his pain well, so Doug and I try to make him a bit more comfortable and get him ready for the long wait.† Extra jackets, balaclava, space blankets, garbage bag, Ibuprofen† Ė he gets most of what we have, which isnít much.† I empty my pack, trying to figure out what we need to make a traction splint.† A stout ski pole.† Leg loops cut off of the climbing harness he had with him.† A 12Ē sewn runner.† Three Voile straps.† The aluminum harness buckle.† That will do.†

With the traction applied, we button up Dan and he seems fairly comfortable.† I take some pictures and climb up toward the crown to see the starting zone.† Danís tree is about 250 feet downslope from the crown.† Roger is another 250 feet further still, and I was a couple hundred feet below him.† I realize that weíd all been filtered out by the trees and that I had no idea how far down the slide continued.

I check in on Dan as Doug returns from visiting Roger and viewing the slide path.† Heís found one of my skis and tells me that the slide ran another 800-1000 feet below where I stopped, over steeper slopes and a 50í cliff band, before hitting the lower angle fan and coming to a stop more than 1000 vertical feet from the crown.† He also reports that Roger is in a lot of pain, so I bundle up what little I have left and head down to give him a more thorough assessment.† Danís break seems stable and heís in excellent spirits, with Doug to keep him company.

When I get down to Roger I offer him my last few Ibuprofen.† I have some Immodium if things get ugly, but he turns it down.† Itís clear to me at this point that weíve got an incredibly solid group of people.† Roger and Dan are absolute troopers and fortunate to have stable, non-life-threatening injuries.† Drew and Doug are unflappable, reflexively getting the rescue started and immediately caring for the most critical concern Ė imminent hypothermia.† We are going to come out of this okay, despite our mistakes.

We hunker down and wait for Search And Rescue to arrive.
« Last Edit: 04/11/11, 04:53 PM by Marcus » Logged
Splitter
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #67 on: 04/09/11, 01:42 AM »

A sobering story with a relatively benign outcome.  Thanks for sharing Marcus.
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nordique
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #68 on: 04/09/11, 07:16 AM »

There is more to the story.   News reports said that the 911 call was around 9:30am and the evac was not completed until dark.
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RonL
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #69 on: 04/09/11, 07:35 AM »

Yes, thanks for letting us in on what happened. How close to the treeline did the slide reach? I have often wondered if slides on those more open slopes could reach down into the trees. I do hope it isn't the Don I met and skied with recently, I am afraid it is. Let us know if you need us to look for any missing gear up there.
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Marcus
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #70 on: 04/09/11, 07:50 AM »

Sorry, I should have made this clear -- a couple of the names (Don & Lou) are made up, since I've not been able to ask them how they felt about it.† Sorry for any confusion there.

I never saw the toe of the slide, but one of our party went down there -- I'll ask him.† From what I could tell, the slide went pretty far down the lower angle slope below the cliffs, but not all the way to the treeline.† Close though -- within a couple of hundred feet and, despite the slab's thickness, it was a pretty small overall area.

I would not ask anyone to look for our missing gear -- I know I'll be heading up there once it melts down a bit to search for it.† That said, we lost a BD Kilowatt (EDIT -- might have been a Megawatt, actually) with a BD01 tele binding, a yellow Voile Insane with an NTN binding, a whippet, 3 other poles and a single Fritschi binding that ripped off the touring toe plate.

Small price to pay.

And yes, nordique, there's more to the story.† That's coming later.† The SAR response was fantastic in all respects.
« Last Edit: 04/09/11, 08:58 AM by Marcus » Logged
gravitymk
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #71 on: 04/09/11, 08:04 AM »

Excellent accounting Marcus, thank you for posting.
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RonL
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #72 on: 04/09/11, 08:21 AM »

Oh good. Thanks for clearing that up. He will probably wonder what that text from me was all about then.

I will keep an eye out  for those things next time I get up there.
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alpentalcorey
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #73 on: 04/09/11, 08:55 AM »

I lost a 185 Kilowatt 2 years ago, so if you can't find it and the size is right i'd be happy to help out or buy the single off you or something.  I may also have a single fritchi but I think it is size XL.  Let me know if I can help.
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jdclimber
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Re: Phantom avy info? 04/06/11
« Reply #74 on: 04/09/11, 09:14 AM »

Amazing read and thank you for sharing. Pictures of the bed surface and crown will be of value to the incident report at some point.
I have some Immodium if things get ugly, but he turns it down.†
Is "Immodium" a typo, or what that changed to protect the innocent (guilty?). I am unaware of the applications of Immodium in a trauma situation (unless you are scared S***less). I always travel with some serious prescription pain killers and they have saved the day in situations similar to yours. 
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