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Author Topic: lucky or not  (Read 12592 times)
freeski
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lucky or not
« on: 04/13/14, 07:21 PM »

I was reviewing this years avy accidents and came across a fatility involving an Alaska heli-ski guide. The article that I read stated that he had dug a pit, he ski cut the slope,he skied the slope, his clients skied the slope and the avy was triggered as he was rejoining his clients. I don't know all the facts, but when i read about tragic accidents such as this, i am lost in thought, in search of vision. Edit to correct: i just read the CAIC report and it states that the guide triggered a slab mid slope on the way to the regroup point prior to the clients descent.  Can't link to the report via phone link.
« Last Edit: 04/14/14, 11:13 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #1 on: 04/13/14, 09:51 PM »

Pits tell you about the pit, ski cuts are a marginal activation of a slope's potential...
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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #2 on: 04/14/14, 11:38 PM »

Pits tell you about the pit, ski cuts are a marginal activation of a slope's potential...
the report states that the pit was re-examined and did not indicate instability at that location,however the avy was triggered a little further down the slope. It seems conservative choice is the only option unless  you want luck to play a greater role in risk. A heli-ski guide friend once told me that you can't depend on luck in the mountains, but i think it plays a greater role then we like to admit. 
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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #3 on: 04/15/14, 08:20 AM »

I know that if I did a big enough pit, I can safely ski around inside the pit...
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Jim Oker
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #4 on: 04/15/14, 10:10 AM »

We skied one trip with a Canadian ski guide who also teaches for the CAA and who has come to believe, based on a few decades of guiding, that luck is always in play. He believes that it is thus important to allow a decent margin of error. This won't eliminate all risk, but it is at least a way of admitting that our risk assessment abilities are not perfect.
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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #5 on: 04/15/14, 06:37 PM »

I know that if I did a big enough pit, I can safely ski around inside the pit...
the places that i would want to dig are not in places that I want to hang out and dig. That is why i ascribe to spending as much time in the BC as possible to observe. When I first read Bruce Tremper's avy book, I thought that this was the first book that thought the way Bc skiers think. Observe the layers while they are being formed and how the different specific slopes that I desire to ski are reacting now, to future conditions and in mental models built from repetetive past observations. This and all the other best practice stuff are of course designed to nibble away at  the probability of having an accident and to have a better outcome should an accident occur. If truly acurate stats for avy incidents existed, i would think they would reflect a greater chance of actually unintentionally triggering an avy and a higher chance of not being 'seriously' injured. But once an avy occurs, chance determines the outcome.   
« Last Edit: 04/16/14, 11:11 AM by freeskiguy » Logged

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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #6 on: 04/16/14, 09:55 AM »

Outside of a pit, a a ski cut is a skier's best friend.

Inside of a pit it's too small to ski...
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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #7 on: 04/16/14, 11:06 AM »

Outside of a pit, a a ski cut is a skier's best friend.

Inside of a pit it's too small to ski...
outside of a pit, a ski cut doesn't always trigger an avalanche when the snow  has avalanche potential. Inside of a pit, the party potential is high. 
He believes that it is thus important to allow a decent margin of error.
  Jim, wouldn't that be a moving target based upon risk homeostasis theory? In other words, the margin of error that a person might percieve as reguired to midigate an avy hazard may not actually midigate that avy risk hazard. In addition, that perception of what constitutes a conservative choice would differ between individuals. For example. I was on a tour with several ladies and a few younger alpha males. After skiing a line from Silver Star Mt col in  new cold smoke powder with zero wind effect, we looked at ascending Burgundy col were the sun don't shine to directly. I looked at the available options and for me, going up the gulley direct  to the col was the safest choice based upon group snow stability analysis for the day. This option was group vetoed simply because the skin track would have messed with the line aesthetics. One of the young males, a former ski patroller, suggested a climber right hand approach. One of the ladies, young,intellegent, and an excellent skier, spoke up and said that we had all just observed the new snow avalanche near that proposed  ascent route off of a big, late March sun effected easterly wrapped wall. That was a wise no vote. The young male responded that he thought he could get around the hazard posed by some of the other walls loaded with the new snow. That was a  yes vote designed to change the no vote and should not have even been suggested because the no vote prevails.  I said go if you want I'm  out of here. Clearly when human factor traps start influencing group behavior, it's time to head out of any avy terrain. For me, even the gulley direct line was no longer an option.
« Last Edit: 04/16/14, 05:44 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

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rlsg
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #8 on: 04/16/14, 06:28 PM »

A pit is just a bit of information thrown in to the bag of information.  It is not an immediate go if one gets "good results".  I think people are missing the forest for the trees as the expression goes..i.e. all the other observable indicators, and snow pack/weather history.  If other information/history indicators  tell you things are not stable--that stuff trumps your pit info in terms of whether it is in your opinion, a low probability of sliding , i.e. from pit info.


Seems like people are missing the signs/indicators of wind slab loading.  If you are analyzing a pit and don't know how to determine and recognize indicators where wind transport snow--(out on a slope) is probably/possibly (not an exact science so play in on the conservative side...) is being loaded, you are definitely playing Russian roulette.  I think most accidents in the NW are do to wind slab..including those little areas that are not on the classic big slopes (never drop your guard).  Most fatalities occur on slopes of 600' or less (at least back in th '80's--old fart here...)
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Mattski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #9 on: 04/16/14, 10:00 PM »

Jim, wouldn't that be a moving target based upon risk homeostasis theory? In other words, the margin of error that a person might perceive as reguired to midigate an avy hazard may not actually midigate that avy risk hazard. In addition, that perception of what constitutes a conservative choice would differ between individuals.

FSG, Trip planning when done with the check lists that most people learn in an AIARE L1 course removes the issue with perception by focusing on collecting available data to understand the main avi concerns then build a travel plan with necessary observations, decision making points and tests to determine what level of risk is actually present. The anecdotes you provide do not illuminate the previous planning and observations made your group did prior to arriving at your decision making point.

The human factors are considered part of the planning around who is going and what they bring to the group. The plan should be based on what data they found and what information they lack to build the margin of error which means excluding terrain where the avi concerns are indicated by the forecast and previous observations of the area if interest.

The Avalanche Observation Reference Checklist found in the AIARE Fieldbook helps people determine what the redflags are and what observations to look for while in the field. It was developed in 2012 as checklist to help link the avi forecast with targeted terrain choices and observations to help evaluate to actual hazards in the field.

Margins of safety created this way give the groups the tools to update their plan as they make relevant observations regarding their terrain choices. Luck favors the prepared, or the 7 ps; 'perfect, prior planning prevents piss poor performance.' Plans are not always perfect, that is why the various checklists are used to avoid missing important clues helping people manage their uncertainty. Knowing you how little you do know heading into the bc helps moderate terrain choices till greater certainty and confidence can be obtained through targeted tests and observations to evaluate the existing hazards on the slope scale.

Bad luck arises from a lack of something. In the case of the heli ski scenario the lack of detailed knowledge of the local snowpack stability and the pressure to open terrain quickly can force decisions that may lack the necessary time to find the actual hazard.

If you believe that you are lucky then gives props to your planning if you did some.
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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #10 on: 04/16/14, 10:30 PM »

Quote
check lists that most people learn in an AIARE L1 course removesreduces the issue with perception by focusing on collecting available data to understand the main avi concerns then build a travel plan with necessary observations...
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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #11 on: 04/16/14, 11:13 PM »

Mattski, It will take awhile to process what you just said. I just got done hearing about an avy accident in golden, BC involving a fatility. In an effort to obtain more facts about that incident and try and seek insight, I was directed to a 2003 incident  in BC, Canada,where 7 children died on a highly planned, teacher- guided, educational trip. That group was right behind two pro guides who responded to the incident and saved the lives of eight other children who were buried.     I will say this. A week or so ago I toured with a few folks into Silver Star basin and there wasn't alot of check list stuff being discussed. Nor did the word Nwac come up. The folks included a Denali guide and a BC Ski guide.  We did discuss all the relevant observations as the trip progressed and made go-no go decisions based upon those real time observations, like 'someone go get FSG, he's wandering off, lost in the forest again'. In my prior post example , you can not always predict human factor interactions within a group and plan for them. The guy who said follow me I can get the group around those active avys was displaying a classic   heuristic trap that is common in high risk tolerent Ski mountaineers. Like I said,the no vote was cast, and I  for one would not defer my risk to someone who could not recognize   the present hazard before us. I'm sure he's learned alot since then, as that trip was a long time ago. At least I hope so, because he is now a guide. Do I feel lucky, you bet I Do. The one avy that I unintentionally triggered in over 30 years of skiing uncontrolled snow,would have killed me if I had been turning left. Because I was turning right when the fracture occured, I was able to ski off of the moving slab. Mattski, I do appreciate your responce as I am still  seeking understanding.
« Last Edit: 04/17/14, 02:00 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #12 on: 04/17/14, 01:47 PM »

I should also point out that the lady who spoke out  wisely, concerning the real time avy hazard that we encountered on that Silver Star tour many years ago, now guides on big mountains.
« Last Edit: 04/17/14, 01:51 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

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Mattski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #13 on: 04/17/14, 04:22 PM »

I should also point out that the lady who spoke out  wisely, concerning the real time avy hazard that we encountered on that Silver Star tour many years ago, now guides on big mountains.

Job titles and experience do not replace good habits and using the right tool for the right job. I knew most of the group at Fairy Meadows and still struggle with understanding where the day broke down, what was missed. Unfortunately every accident includes a moment when the group realizes something is off or doubt arises from a lack of something.
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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #14 on: 04/17/14, 10:00 PM »

Quote
Unfortunately every accident includes a moment when the group realizes something is off or doubt arises from a lack of something.

Yea, in a perfect world...

... stop looking for absolutes and patches.

If avi instructors do the job right, the students should be scared shitless every time they go out into the wild-white-yonder.  Checklists, constant discussions, playing avi expert by digging holes everywhere shouldn't displace being scared shitless for many years if ever.
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BillK
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #15 on: 04/18/14, 07:44 AM »

^^^^^Word!
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freeski
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #16 on: 04/19/14, 02:38 PM »

Yea, in a perfect world...

... stop looking for absolutes and patches.

If avi instructors do the job right, the students should be scared shitless every time they go out into the wild-white-yonder.  Checklists, constant discussions, playing avi expert by digging holes everywhere shouldn't displace being scared shitless for many years if ever.
good point,  in the commercial world myth sells product. In the real world, uncertainty creates fear and fear is good. Fear is an evolutionary survival responce that benefits life. 
« Last Edit: 04/19/14, 05:03 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

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juan
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #17 on: 04/21/14, 01:55 PM »

I just got done hearing about an avy accident in golden, BC involving a fatility. In an effort to obtain more facts about that incident and try and seek insight, I was directed to a 2003 incident  in BC, Canada,where 7 children died on a highly planned, teacher- guided, educational trip. That group was right behind two pro guides who responded to the incident and saved the lives of eight other children who were buried.   

FSG, please share any information you find on line re: the fatality in BC.  I assume you are speaking of the Fairy Meadows accident?  A friend of ours was the fatality in that accident and we are looking for information. Thank you,
Jon Ambrose
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snoslut
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #18 on: 04/21/14, 06:03 PM »

Juan, check you pm.  I just sent you some info from what I read about the Fairy Meadows accident while I was up in BC last week.
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T. Eastman
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #19 on: 04/21/14, 10:26 PM »

Jon, the information regarding this incident is the most meager I have seen in ages.

The CAC has posted only the most basic of information.  I imagine that more details will emerge but as of this point, there is little to be understood.

The Wenatchee paper's website had a brief note several days after the incident but that too has been hard to find.

I am sorry if this is a friend.

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Jim Oker
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #20 on: 04/22/14, 10:09 AM »

Jim, wouldn't that be a moving target based upon risk homeostasis theory? In other words, the margin of error that a person might percieve as reguired to midigate an avy hazard may not actually midigate that avy risk hazard. In addition, that perception of what constitutes a conservative choice would differ between individuals.
Well, risk homeostasis theory, if I understand it correctly, applies to much of the risk mitigation steps we take out there. And no, the notion of maintaining a margin of error is not a silver bullet and it is most definitely not intended as a shortcut to other risk evaluation processes. It will not cure a decision process that started out sketchy (e.g. ignoring clear signs of hazard due to goal orientation, as in your Silver Star example).

This guy suggested margin of error as an augmentation to all the other analytical processes. He made a related point about ego, or self image, and its influence on how we each made decisions out there. He described his own journey and how, as he has gotten more experience through a few decades, he realizes how tough it is to accurately predict whether a slope will slide, a cornice will fail, a bridge will collapse, etc. He has seen enough things that defied common rules of thumb and checklists to be willing to fully trust them if the consequences of getting it wrong are high. I think T. Eastman has expressed a very similar thought regarding staying scared.

I think that if anything, keeping these notions of ego and margin of error in mind will help moderate the influence of risk homeostasis from other influences (beacons, air bags, the latest pit test protocol, confidence gained from accumulated experience with correlating various observations to results, etc.).

WRT to the title of your thread, I think a corollary point is that many of us have been lucky more than we'd prefer to admit to ourselves.
« Last Edit: 04/22/14, 10:14 AM by Jim Oker » Logged
Jim Oker
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Re: lucky or not
« Reply #21 on: 04/22/14, 10:28 AM »

It seems conservative choice is the only option unless  you want luck to play a greater role in risk
Yes, allow a healthy margin of error!
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