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Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Colorado 13er questions, conditions, and other info should be posted here. Also includes topics related to 13ers.com. 13er Trip Reports
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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Alby426 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:36 pm

In regards to the demonstration, I did it in the most controlled manner and, yes I lost control, that was the point!
You need to know that I was surprised to see how many people are told or think that you should use your feet to self arrest. Well, DON'T! The proof is in the video. That is the reason I did it. It is now used by many organizations and forums to make the point.
I am glad that you dissicated my profile and, assumed who I am in the mountains or what kind of reckless individual I am. I guess, from now on, I will refrain from sucking up my pride and, post about my experiences.
You may be curious to know that I also teach auto racing and, advanced teen driving, including loss of control: it is not possible, sometimes to teach without demonstration.
Yes, mountains are dangerous, the only way to avoid danger is not to go!

That said, hope to meet you someday and share a beer and more climbing stories.
Cheers.
My duty, as a human, is not to take, but, to give!

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby cheeseburglar » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:40 pm

I like that self arrest feet down demonstration. Excellent!
Seems like you overdid it a little, maybe even jumped backwards a bit.
Hard to believe anyone would give you a hard time for an effective learning demonstration.
One thing we used to do for self arrest practice was push people down slopes. Face them down the slope, then the pusher stands upslope and launches them off as hard as they can.
Good thing there isn't video of those practice sessions.
The marmot said “Nobody is perfect and you are not nobody.”

Random FoTH Quotes

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Gueza » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:11 am

cheeseburglar wrote:Seems like you overdid it a little...Hard to believe anyone would give you a hard time for an effective learning demonstration.


This boy scout leader/instructor would beg to differ...

Look at every setback, failure, and time you feel down in your life as a temporary, fixable condition. That is how you never give up and keep moving onwards.

"Never Stop" - AJS

"Be kind, Take care of yourself, and Work Hard" -Steve Gladbach

https://www.youtube.com/user/14erskier

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Alby426 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:36 am

Yes, I remember that story. In my case, it was in a much more controlled environment. I know that it looks impressive and it actually was a bit, but, it's not as bad as it looks. To tell you the truth, I didn't jump backwards at all, that is completely real :wft: .
As you probably gather, I am very animate about the technique and, safety up there. I did that demonstration and had my wife film it so, I don't have to do it again :mrgreen:



All in all, I love mountains, I know that they can be dangerous but, so can be my job or driving to the store. I also know that some of the climbs I do, haveexposure and difficulties. I will never put myself or others in danger wrecklessly.

Have fun up there and, hope you join us on January Quandary.

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby dsunwall » Tue Dec 18, 2012 7:25 am

I think Mr. Doug Shaw is over reacting a bit on this one. The video looked good to me, a controlled demonstration of getting out of control.

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Brian C » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:07 am

dsunwall wrote:I think Mr. Doug Shaw is over reacting a bit on this one. The video looked good to me, a controlled demonstration of getting out of control.

Yup. I was impressed at how fast he was still able to arrest. A lot of folks wouldn't be able to recover at all from a tumble like that.

I think the real danger that's lurking in the sub-text of this post is the "I'll deal with it when it happens" approach to learning mountaineering skills. I've seen this surface again and again over the years over here on 14ers and it scares me. Folks go out and have their first time learning certain skills in an uncontrolled environment time and time again. For example, going on a first snow climb without ever practicing self arrest, climbing Kieners as a first trad climb, climbing Mount Hood as a first time wearing crampons, etc.

I was very guilty of this years ago when I bought 4 pieces of trad gear and went and climbed the Third Flatiron as my first multi-pitch climb. It made perfect sense to me at the time and we were lucky and it all worked out, but if something unexpected had happened we would have been screwed. Things like the tumble in the video happen, and practicing the skills to save your bacon ahead of time should be encouraged. The scenario at St. Mary's is as safe and controlled environment as possible. Although there still is a certain amount of risk, it seems the benefits of having the skills outweigh them. Several rescues a year would be avoided if people worked and developed certain skills before heading out into the hills.
Brian in the Wild
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"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." - Wordsworth

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby kansas » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:37 am

dsunwall wrote:I think Mr. Doug Shaw is over reacting a bit on this one. The video looked good to me, a controlled demonstration of getting out of control.


Agreed.

There are very few people on this site I trust as much as Al, he has been around for 2 of my most difficult climbs and surely prevented one of them from becoming a legitimate epic. After seeing his thought process in a sticky situation first hand, I can honestly say I trust him with my life.

Al also dedicates a fair amount of time helping new climbers and sharing his extensive knowledge. I have nothing but respect for the man.
"In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams."
— Jon Krakauer

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby powhound » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:31 am

I assume you had crampons on for the demonstration, hence the feet up. I have only practiced self arrest WITHOUT crampons...in which I dug my toes in, which I believe is the correct approach for boots only. Maybe some else could confirm this, so there is no confusion for beginners reading this. Also...does anyone have any opinion/experience with self arresting wearing microspikes? Should feet be up or digging in?

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby davebobk47 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:44 am

I have practiced with crampons on, and yes, feet are kept up. If you were sliding fast and kicked your toe points in and they stuck it would likely break/tear something in your leg. I believe micro spikes could be treated just like a boot as there are no front points on microspikes (plus the points on them are too small to do much without your body weight on them)
"Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve. They are the cathedrals where I practice my religion." -Anatoli Boukreev

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Jay521 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:55 am

powhound wrote:I assume you had crampons on for the demonstration, hence the feet up. I have only practiced self arrest WITHOUT crampons...in which I dug my toes in, which I believe is the correct approach for boots only. Maybe some else could confirm this, so there is no confusion for beginners reading this. Also...does anyone have any opinion/experience with self arresting wearing microspikes? Should feet be up or digging in?

I will defer to those with more experience than I have, but I was taught that you NEVER dig your feet in - no matter what - as a good "stick" coupled with velocity could start you cartwheeling.
I take the mountain climber's approach to housekeeping - don't look down

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby Brian C » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:07 am

If you develop the habit of kicking in toes without crampons, that time you take a slide with crampons on you'll instinctively kick in your feet. The goal is to have self arrest be a reflex so you should practice the skill in a way that the reflex will not harm you. So although kicking in feet without crampons can be effective, I would not recommend practicing that.
Brian in the Wild
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"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." - Wordsworth

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Re: Avalanche at St. Mary's glacier

Postby TomPierce » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:35 am

I've been reading this thread and, in the spirit of discussing possible lessons learned, wonder if another perspective is to be mindful of where you are in relation to possible avalanche paths. The St. Mary's bowl is fairly notorious for sliding in poor conditions and the cornicing there is pretty well known (when facing the lake, cornices will form at the top of the bowl center to right, and following the blunt arete down to the right leads you to the well known slide area). My recollection is that some have died there in years past. As I recall the OP said it was near whiteout conditions at time, or at least visibility was definitely limited, so maybe the take-away is to not dwell in such terrain unless you're really sure of your location on the mountain. Certainly not pointing fingers, I've made my share of mistakes in the mountains, just offering another perspective.

Glad everyone was unhurt.

-Tom

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