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NWAC Avalanche
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| | |-+  3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
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Author Topic: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities  (Read 15740 times)
Jim Oker

Posts: 1552

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #25 on: 03/19/14, 06:21 PM »

rong - thanks for the writeup, and for reflecting on what you'd do differently in the future on this terrain (and for your constructive tone in responding to all the comments).

I have some mental image of this from hiking through there this past September (and I have a fairly vivid image of crossing the V of Little Zigzag on the trail with fairly hot sun beating down), which makes this at least slightly less that fully-abstract for me.

Posts: 479

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #26 on: 03/19/14, 06:55 PM »

I generally prefer not to weigh in on these threads since many times they become reduced to back and forth arguments about whose dick is bigger, and because if things aren't worded just right (from someone else's perspective), people feel the need to blast off.  But, as some have indicated, there is valuable information to be gained that others can use to not repeat the same mistakes we made on our trip, so here's my two cents....

As has been stated several times, there were several red flags rong and I encountered on our trip (compression cracks, windslab, recent heavy snowfall, etc.).  Also, as folks know and have alluded to, even when avy conditions are high, there are safe areas to ski, as many of us (including me) who like to ski powder seek out routinely.

This being said, there are a few key takeaways from this event for me that stand out as different from what I usually encounter and from how I make decisions on considerably/high avy danger days.  As a side note, the rating for the day was considerable by NWAC.

First, the Little Zigzag is basically the only objective hazard on the route to get to the "safe" skiing zones, where as other zones I generally ski the entire ascent/tour are free of what I consider to be objective hazards.  In this case, the Little Zigzag is also a relatively small feature on Mt Hood.  That is one of my key takeaways.  Small slopes, especially small slopes, can be deceiving and pack a punch.  You may not think too much of that 50 foot slope, but it can bury and kill you, and should be treated with the same respect as a larger slope.  This is something I will pay keen attention to in the future, especially when ski/cornice cutting or other measures aren't possible and when approaching from the bottom.

Second, avoiding the risk all together, as stated above, would have been prudent in this case, most likely by descending down to a safer crossing several hundred feet below.  Turning around and finding another place to ski is also an option we'll likely be giving much more merit to in future tours if similar conditions are found.

Lastly, good travel techniques, including spacing out when crossing slopes is essential.  Rong and I were spaced out fairly well, even though the toe of the avalanche ran past me by two feet.  I actually thought I was in a spot that would be out of the way of the deposition zone if anything happened, but in hindsight I should have been another 30 feet or so back (slightly up the slope of the opposing wall).  In the future a more critical eye to a potential runout path is something I'll give much attention to, and likely apply a safety factor to that.  

And Ron, you owe me nothing, but I'll gladly drink some of your beers if you're offering Wink

« Last Edit: 03/19/14, 07:03 PM by stoudema » Logged

There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty." - Theodore Roosevelt

Posts: 70

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #27 on: 03/19/14, 07:57 PM »


Thanks for your perspective as well.  It even clarifies the situation a whole lot more.  If I ever ski down at Hood I have flagged this area and its risks.  It is these types of reports that help in making safer skiing choices.

From the pictures you did find some nice turns.

Posts: 297

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #28 on: 03/19/14, 09:37 PM »

I missed the part about shooting cracks when I read the report at 6am this morning so that changes things a bit for me.  I am still not sure I would have turned around given I have crossed that gap so many times in similar conditions.  I constantly struggle to remind my self the objective is to always watch for signs of instability; not for signs of stability.  And that one sign of instability always trumps all other signs of stability.  This changes things a lot for me since it is a slope I know so well.  Pretty scary.  Thanks for sharing and well said Stoudema.
« Last Edit: 03/20/14, 05:54 AM by Edgesport » Logged

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Posts: 52

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #29 on: 03/20/14, 01:16 PM »

Thank you both for posting this.  Rebecca and I are glad you guys are ok.  Matt, that was a nice write up.  First hand accounts of slides and the decision making process leading up to them are very helpful to me.  I use them to try to give clarity to possible mistakes that could easily be made in the field. 

I think one issue with these reports is that they are often (not always) the result of hours of introspection into the signs and the mistakes that were made.  By the time it is written, to the reader, it appears everything was obvious.  In the field, there is often a lot more ambiguity and, at times, a bit of risk acceptance. 



Posts: 81

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #30 on: 03/20/14, 03:15 PM »

Glad you made it out Ron, and thanks for the well written report. Having skied that area with you a few times, my takeaway is the same as stoudema's. I'll be giving relatively small slopes a bit more respect from now on.

Posts: 95

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #31 on: 03/20/14, 06:05 PM »

  Thanks all for the support.  Immediately after the incident I felt OK, and Matt and I decided to continue our tour and ski.  All was good, but later things got tougher for me as the drama continued to play out in my mind, and honestly sleep came with difficulty.  The support of family, friends and this forum community has helped immensely. 
  The comments, and suggestions are also helpful as reinforcement for me as I continue to put together what caused our error in judgement, because we 'were' aware of the signs.  There are so many factors that when combined caused us to make an unsound decision.  One that has not been addressed here is 'over familiarity', and I fault myself on this.  I ski this area 25-30 times a year, Matt much less.  In fact I was back in there today, to do an aftermath assessment for my own benefit, and also collect a few turns  Smiley .
  I think in the long run this will be a positive thing for Matt and myself, as well as the TAY community, as it allows us to share thoughts and ideas, to trouble shoot, and most of all to stay flexible when in the field making decisions.  Knowing when to call it is important.  Knowing when to modify the trip plan is important.  There are always options.
T. Eastman

Posts: 416

Re: 3-17-14 Mt Hood instabilities
« Reply #32 on: 03/20/14, 09:21 PM »

Ron, I learned about avi stuff while spending many years living in the Colorado mountains.  It has an entirely different snowpack, but the small terrain traps at treeline and just below were often sketchy.  We also spent lots of days in that zone as the bigger above treeline slopes were either bare or scary.  These smaller areas there and here demand respect,and as you have written, you have developed a better sense of potential trouble where you had not expected it. 

Thanks for initiating and participating in this discussion.
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