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Author Topic: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche  (Read 21402 times)
steadyski
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #25 on: 02/10/14, 03:51 PM »

I'm with Billk on this. Embarrassing is a good word for the situation. Just a note to all, "this year is going to be different" keep it in mind, it reminds me of winter 1977. I climbed more than i skied in those years.

greg 
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Floater
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #26 on: 02/10/14, 05:50 PM »

Thanks for writing this report and do not feel bad this happened.  It can happen to anyone that ventures into the backcountry.  All you can do is digest it and learn from it. 

By writing this you helped me.  This is an area I will definitely avoid.  I was playing around there last year and it sure had a lot of avalanche debris.  Much appreciated report, very well written.
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avajane
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #27 on: 02/11/14, 12:20 AM »

Savegondor said:
Just my input and just so you know if you hit a 'rocky mountain snowpack' all bets are off in the trees.  the only OB AVI i've ever been privileged to experience was on a 20 degree slope in thick trees.  not steep.  in trees.  well 'anchored'. hoar frost.  it was fast, it was dangerous.  i was lucky.
but in bounds being safe?  that's just plain stupid. 


I've climbed lots of big walls and big mountains, rafted dangerous rivers, and skied steep slopes my whole life. I think a few times I have been lucky to have survived - but most of the time it's been because I'm not stupid.  Wink

I'd love to ski the Rockies sometime, but that's neither here nor there. I was talking about Pacific Coast snowpacks where most of us tend to hid in the trees from time to time. (or go resort skiing)

I never said inbounds was safe. Just that on elevated danger days - if you want to ski the steeps, stay inbounds. If you don't trust your ski patrol, then make your own decisions or go somewhere else where you do trust them. I  have witnessed a potentially deadly inbounds avalanche at Whistler, but I like to believe them when they say they've never had an inbounds fatality at Whistler. (That's a lot of skier days - on a hell of a big mountain!) I know there no absolute guarantees, but if I get knocked off in an inbounds avalanche, I doubt many will call me stupid.

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Brian Izdepski, Facebook TAY
JCK
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #28 on: 02/11/14, 07:10 AM »

Thanks for sharing your experiences---it is brave and a really useful analysis of what went wrong.  Much appreciated.
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #29 on: 02/11/14, 08:36 AM »

Thank you for posting!
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garyabrill
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #30 on: 02/11/14, 09:41 AM »

Wow, fabulous review of your avalanche incident from both of you.

A couple of thoughts. It sounds like you have a firm grip on what happened. I like to think about having a risk profile. And as skier number one (DCM) said in his write-up, his profile was becoming too risky and he was aware of that.

Chamois brought up a good point when he spoke of communication. I think that is particularly true if one is the lead duck. It is important to stop and talk over your choices and to discuss the reasons for making them. When one is the leader this is important so the group doesn't make a choice that is too risky for one of the members who is not as much of a risk taker.

Finally, in as much as this was an incident rather than an accident, it will be important for both of you to keep in perspective that with a few things changed this could have come out a lot worse so that you can truly learn from this experience.
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andyrew
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #31 on: 02/11/14, 09:43 AM »

1) How confident am I of my assessment?  Even 99% confidence isn't enough when a slide would be disastrous.  I developed this rule after thinking back on a great day that definitely violated it. 
2) How robust is my assessment to changing conditions?  If only one condition needs to change for your argument for safety to collapse, then you run a good chance of being surprised.  I've been amazed by the short distances over which a slab will deeper or stiffen. 

Great advice.
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Micah
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #32 on: 02/11/14, 09:58 AM »

Thanks so much for posting your experiences. I'm sure it is not easy to do in front of your community, but your report is a big service to the the rest of us. I'm glad all the recent close calls have turned out OK and that there was no serious injury or loss of life.

I wanted to ask if you (folks involved in this incident and the community generally) think assessing the snow in the couloir from the top after climbing up another route would have worked out better. I'm not familiar with the area, so I don't know if the line can be accessed in a way other than climbing it or if alternate up tracks are any safer. I am not advocating for one practice or the other (climb what you ski or check things out from the top). But, from your account, it seems like you might have had more definitive information at the top where the slab may have been the most developed and decided to stay out of the couloir altogether instead of poking around at the bottom of the instabilities until you felt the conditions were too dangerous. OTOH the slide occurred on relatively tame terrain below the steepest slopes, and you would likely travel through similar terrain on any up track.
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ND
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #33 on: 02/11/14, 10:50 AM »

I wanted to ask if you (folks involved in this incident and the community generally) think assessing the snow in the couloir from the top after climbing up another route would have worked out better. I'm not familiar with the area, so I don't know if the line can be accessed in a way other than climbing it or if alternate up tracks are any safer. I am not advocating for one practice or the other (climb what you ski or check things out from the top). But, from your account, it seems like you might have had more definitive information at the top where the slab may have been the most developed and decided to stay out of the couloir altogether instead of poking around at the bottom of the instabilities until you felt the conditions were too dangerous. OTOH the slide occurred on relatively tame terrain below the steepest slopes, and you would likely travel through similar terrain on any up track.

That's a double edged sword.  I believe it was stated earlier in the thread that trees climbers right can be taken to get to the top of the fly, I can't confirm since I've never tried.  You can easily go up the col climbers left to the top of the zipper. 

Yes taking that approach will reduce your exposure time greatly, however you also will have no real idea what you're really getting yourself in to.  The top section you can belay in to will not tell you if a cornice fall hit the couloir mid pitch earlier in the week exposing an icy bed surface.  If you went flying off in to the zipper right now cowboy style you wouldn't know that the chockstone was thin ice on the rock a few weeks ago, that could go badly. 

The flip side of this is that climbing the line you are exposing yourself to objective hazard the entire time.  This is extremely important to remember later in the spring when solar effects are greatest.  I've had my own close calls with rock/cornice fall (see my report of bad decisions on CJ last spring for example) and in general will not do lines like this if I can't get a proper alpine start.  Mid winter that isn't as much of a concern, but it's still there.  The bankers hours at Rainier really screw that up. 

In general I want to climb what I will ski, I ride more confidently when I KNOW what I'm about to get in to.  If I think that the objective hazard is high enough that I don't want to climb it then I probably shouldn't be skiing it anyway.   
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Mofro
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #34 on: 02/11/14, 10:54 AM »

Thank you for sharing your experience, which hopefully has led you to what I have come to call a Risk Assessment Reset Episode. All of our actions in the mountains involve some element of risk and usually the risk tolerance is determined by our level of experience, confidence in our abilities, and our confidence in our own assessments, which can often be jaded by "what we were able to get a away within the past". These RARE moments, are to my mind are critical parts to avalanche awareness and increased safety over the long haul, because they serve as reminders that the mountains do not care about our experience, proficiency, confidence, or desire for an objective. 

One can talk about the stupidity or lack of awareness that leads up to a RARE event, or the luck involved in their avoidance or in coming out of one unharmed. But it is only blind luck or stupidity if we don't take the queues from the learning experience as an opportunity to alter our behavior and reset or reduce our risk tolerance such that a RARE occurrence does not become common place.   
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not always bad
Robert Connor
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #35 on: 02/12/14, 09:28 AM »

but in bounds being safe?  that's just plain stupid.  as are some of the openings patrol have done in my experience.  I've set off a couple on cowboy ridge that to my shame put others in danger.  and i've seen some good wet snow slides at crystal run into the groomers and endanger many a gaper.

I too have triggered a slide on Cowboy Ridge.  I think it was too small to endanger people below me, but I don't know for sure.  I do know that it was scary as hell being carried towards a tree studded gully thinking "this is not good, this is not good, gotta stop."  I am shaking enough it is hard to type just thinking back to it.

I don't know that I can blame patrol for having it open.  The line that slid was 20-30 feet away from where they had done explosive control.  It was just a slightly different shape and position that got more wind loaded than where they had blasted. I am sure they thought they had the area well controlled.  Maybe they should have been more conservative in their determination, but I know for sure that I should have been more conservative in my decision making.
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aaron_wright
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #36 on: 02/12/14, 10:51 AM »

Interesting. Good post incident analysis. You guys essential ski cut the wind slab from below. Is that rib where skier 1 stopped really a terrain feature or the debris fan from Zipper? It looks like if you had skied the fall line out of the coolie that you might have avoided the slab. Not that it matters, as you've noted you shouldn't have been there.
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DCM
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #37 on: 02/12/14, 12:09 PM »

Thanks for all of the good replies everyone.  There have been some very useful thoughts posted here, many of which we will likely incorporate into our routine.  In response to Aaron_Wright's post about the rib, I am not sure if that was really a terrain feature or not, as I have not been there in the summer time.  If it was from avalanche deposition, it was still significant enough in size to confine the slide to that one path down the fan.  Also, I agree that it is possible that we never would have triggered the slide if we had skied more skier's left, but that tongue of unconsolidated snow over towards skier's left was still pretty narrow at that point on the slope.  Even if we had avoided the slide, it would have been due to dumb luck.
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savegondor
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #38 on: 02/12/14, 03:18 PM »

I too have triggered a slide on Cowboy Ridge.  I think it was too small to endanger people below me, but I don't know for sure.  I do know that it was scary as hell being carried towards a tree studded gully thinking "this is not good, this is not good, gotta stop."  I am shaking enough it is hard to type just thinking back to it.

I don't know that I can blame patrol for having it open.  The line that slid was 20-30 feet away from where they had done explosive control.  It was just a slightly different shape and position that got more wind loaded than where they had blasted. I am sure they thought they had the area well controlled.  Maybe they should have been more conservative in their determination, but I know for sure that I should have been more conservative in my decision making.

clarification of my 'stupid' remark:  puns aside I meant to say that it is stupid in my opinion to ASSUME safety just because I'm in-bounds.  and even more so in controlled 'side-country'.  do I generally feel 'safer' in bounds?  absolutely.  these slides are more rare.  but it's the ASSUMPTION that i take issue with especially in areas I'm familiar with aka Alpental, Crystal, Mission Ridge, Baker, White Pass. 

secondly I don't generally blame patrol for controlling or not controlling a slope.  there just needs to be good communication about it.  i.e. I do think skiing from OB into IB on cowboy should probably be prohibited on Cowboy.  and maybe it already is.  just seems like a liability disaster waiting to happen.  my slide didn't hurt anyone...but the other skier involved probably lost his ski forever under 10-12 feet of snow.   

I have seen or observed evidence of many an inbounds slide that happened while the ski area was open and not during control work.  hence my opinion on the matter.   to pick on cowboy...that sucker scares me more than the line this thread was originally posted about. 
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savegondor
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #39 on: 02/12/14, 03:24 PM »

my only input on the FLY is that given the conditions there doesn't really seem to be a safe zone anywhere in those pics you offered.  if i'm going to take some chances I'm going to look at something that has a nice ridge-line...like those AK skiers do with all  their 'sluff-management' skilz.  probably a topic for hot air.  i digress. 
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avajane
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Re: February 7th, 2014, Lane Peak- the Fly & Avalanche
« Reply #40 on: 02/12/14, 07:02 PM »

I do think skiing from OB into IB on cowboy should probably be prohibited on Cowboy.  and maybe it already is.  just seems like a liability disaster waiting to happen.  my slide didn't hurt anyone...but the other skier involved probably lost his ski forever under 10-12 feet of snow.   

In Whistler there are lots of areas that are "out of bounds" but they don't really care. For areas where they really care - they have signs that say "Permanently Closed Area" and some more wording making it clear that they will pull your pass if they catch you there. These are areas like "Mondays" above West Bowl, and certain sections in the Spankey's Ladder area. They are all similar to Cowboy Ridge at Stevens in that an avalanche triggered there could affect skiers in the resort below. The ski area should be able to have the "teeth" to protect their skiers.
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Brian Izdepski, Facebook TAY
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