Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

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RyGuy
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by RyGuy » Mon Dec 21, 2020 6:40 pm

JtheChemE wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:31 pm
Another big warning sign for people excited to get after winter peaks:

Quite a large slide triggered remotely by what appear to be snowshoers en route to Sneffels' SW ridge route, but the report is vague and submitted anonymously. Thankfully the report doesn't mention injuries or a fatality.

Glad nobody was hurt, but its hard to think of decision making process that makes attempting this route reasonable today. This isn't even a heuristic trap type situation, as there is no route up sneffels without avalanche hazard. The aspect of the approach to SW route is exactly one of the ones that are in question right now. CAIC even put out a special bulletin yesterday about the high danger of the current snowpack. Especially worrisome is that it was triggered remotely from below. We can expect this danger to persist, and even get touchier with upcoming small storm loads in the forecast.

Hopefully pointing these things out (as appropriate) can be beneficial for this group, especially if it can bring awareness or start a discussion. In the off chance that the party involved reads this forum, it would be helpful to share more details with CAIC as to what led to this "near miss". There are quite a few new folks out there this season, I sure do hope people err more towards caution right now. Link to CAIC field report below.


https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/caic/ ... s_id=62936


SnefCalTopo.jpg
s41nxqh3c1ew6ao7rzbefioi6btm.jpg
Dang, I don't think I've seen the snowpack this touchy in quite awhile.

I agree that we really need to be quick to point this stuff out to newbies who are wanting to venture out and may just have zero understanding of the danger they are flirting with.

I also commented on another post recently asking about Grays and Torreys and mentioned the same thing. We as a community should do our best to help folks safe.

-Ryan
"Climbing mountains is the only thing I know that combines the best of the physical, spiritual, and emotional world all rolled into one." -Steve Gladbach
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Dave B
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Dave B » Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:14 pm

RyGuy wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 6:40 pm
I agree that we really need to be quick to point this stuff out to newbies who are wanting to venture out and may just have zero understanding of the danger they are flirting with.
Also a good idea to point out to the experienced that accidents can happen to anyone.

But, this year, mostly the newbies.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Squirrellysquirrel » Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:49 pm

JtheChemE wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:31 pm
The aspect of the approach to SW route is exactly one of the ones that are in question right now. CAIC even put out a special bulletin yesterday about the high danger of the current snowpack. Especially worrisome is that it was triggered remotely from below. We can expect this danger to persist, and even get touchier with upcoming small storm loads in the forecast.

Hopefully pointing these things out (as appropriate) can be beneficial for this group, especially if it can bring awareness or start a discussion. In the off chance that the party involved reads this forum, it would be helpful to share more details with CAIC as to what led to this "near miss". There are quite a few new folks out there this season, I sure do hope people err more towards caution right now. Link to CAIC field report below.


https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/caic/ ... s_id=62936

Whoa! :wft:
Totally resonate with the touchy snow conditions.

Not surprised about your inclusion on SW aspects, seeing weakness in this region, too...

The few holes I’ve dug on my hikes have nothing that suggests solidity for a foundation of wintertime snow pack in the N San Juans. Dicey really for all high altitude slopes: layers of hard crust separated and founded on snowflakes of unconsolidated chaos. I appreciate the hoar for its sparkle quality, but really not interested in seeing it with so much consistency in the backcountry as I transition across various slope types, too. CAIC deserves gold stars; it’s a daily fix that makes my world feel complete; good to watch the chronological unfolding of winter on a few slopes to get a sense of underlying snow conditions.

Nothing beats AIARE avy classes++ too!!
RyGuy wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 6:40 pm

I also commented on another post recently asking about Grays and Torreys and mentioned the same thing. We as a community should do our best to help folks safe.

-Ryan
Felt the same way about advice on winter 14ers, Mill Creek_ Sunshine is a temperamental beast, best to catch when conditions are close to crisp.
"The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus." ~ Bruce Lee
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Jorts » Mon Dec 21, 2020 9:32 pm

2014:
https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/caic/ ... &accfm=inv

Same location as...

2005:
https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/caic/ ... t=20051222

If you can not recognize avy terrain nor affect a rescue, just stay out of it. Or find a trusted mentor. Seemingly innocuous areas can be quite hazardous. Few 14er summer routes are always safe in the winter as demonstrated by the Kelso incidents.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Bean » Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:27 pm

Dave B wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:14 pm
Also a good idea to point out to the experienced that accidents can happen to anyone.

But, this year, mostly the newbies.
The three killed last weekend were all very experienced.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by headsizeburrito » Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:30 am

Possibly dumb idea I just had while in the shower.

It might be helpful to have known/regular avalanche areas marked in a caltopo layer the same way fire activity is. Obviously there is already slope shading that shows you some potential for avy terrain, but that covers a huge area and having an indication of where they have historically happened and where the highest risk is could be good information. Of course you don't want to create a false sense of security and would never have complete data, but I could see it being useful.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by SkiFree » Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:51 am

On Caic you can use their interactive map to look up every recorder avalanche in the state since about 2008. I normally just use the accident filter but I think you can even search by observations. The only danger is that it doesn't take a previous casualty to make it an avalanche prone slope.

But in my opinion, the cal topo slope angle shading shows you everything you need to know to plan a safe low angle trip. Its just takes practice

Field reports organized on a map:
https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/obser ... d-reports/

Accident reports organized on a map:
https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/accidents/colorado/
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Tornadoman » Tue Dec 22, 2020 7:44 am

Jorts wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 9:32 pm
If you can not recognize avy terrain nor affect a rescue, just stay out of it. Or find a trusted mentor. Seemingly innocuous areas can be quite hazardous. Few 14er summer routes are always safe in the winter as demonstrated by the Kelso incidents.
This is a very good point. Sometimes the right decision is to simply avoid avalanche terrain, and this may indeed be one of those times. I know I am in super conservative mode as I decided to not even do a lake hike below treeline last weekend due to avy concerns.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by JtheChemE » Tue Dec 22, 2020 7:46 am

headsizeburrito wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:30 am
Possibly dumb idea I just had while in the shower.

It might be helpful to have known/regular avalanche areas marked in a caltopo layer the same way fire activity is. Obviously there is already slope shading that shows you some potential for avy terrain, but that covers a huge area and having an indication of where they have historically happened and where the highest risk is could be good information. Of course you don't want to create a false sense of security and would never have complete data, but I could see it being useful.
Cal Topo shows everything you need. The point is that anyone heading out into potential avalanche terrain should be able to combine CAIC information, with Cal Topo, with your own observations in the BC, to come up with a route / plan that is within your ability to mitigate avalanche hazard given the current conditions and within your accepted level of risk tolerance. Adding a layer to cal topo could lead to a false sense of security, as you mentioned.

Just because a path is not "known" within the context of historical observed avalanche, does not mean that anyone with a basic understanding of avalanche hazard should "know" that certain slopes can slide. For example, attempting to gain the SW ridge of Sneffels with the current conditions is very clearly a bad idea. Yesterday was was the first documented incident in that specific place I've scene, so it is not "known" from the historical context, but I absolutely know that it can slide under the right conditions.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the best factor of mitigating risk is avoidance. Most winter peak baggers simply avoid avalanche terrain completely, unless the snowpack is stable without question. Or they stick to the long list of safer winter peaks that can be done under elevated hazard (many of those are 14ers).

I'm not trying to fear monger here, even with conditions as they are there are plenty of good options to get out and enjoy the winter mountains of Colorado. The point is that people need to actually think about things, and be very intentional with the risks that they take. What I've seen this year and last (through posts, trip reports), shows an alarming trend that many just roll the dice come out okay, and think whatever flawed decision making put them in a questionable situation can be applied to future outings with similar "success".
Jorts wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 9:32 pm
If you can not recognize avy terrain nor affect a rescue, just stay out of it. Or find a trusted mentor. Seemingly innocuous areas can be quite hazardous. Few 14er summer routes are always safe in the winter as demonstrated by the Kelso incidents.
^^^ Jorts summed it up much shorter than I.
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RyGuy
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by RyGuy » Tue Dec 22, 2020 7:47 am

headsizeburrito wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:30 am
Possibly dumb idea I just had while in the shower.

It might be helpful to have known/regular avalanche areas marked in a caltopo layer the same way fire activity is. Obviously there is already slope shading that shows you some potential for avy terrain, but that covers a huge area and having an indication of where they have historically happened and where the highest risk is could be good information. Of course you don't want to create a false sense of security and would never have complete data, but I could see it being useful.
The problem here is people will just look at the known slide paths and won't learn to read terrain and make informed decisions themselves. This leads to complacency and a false sense of security. That will get people killed. Look at the people who just blindly follow Google or Apple maps and then end up in terrible places. Example: https://durangoherald.com/articles/350732

The whole point of taking an AIARE course is you are equipped with the tools to be able to analyze terrain and make decisions. Sometimes you even find that despite the caltopo research and satellite images, you find a pocket of danger while you are out. You need to be able to understand that and make decisions on the fly. Not just blindly walk into a terrain trap because "The map showed it was safe".

-Ryan
"Climbing mountains is the only thing I know that combines the best of the physical, spiritual, and emotional world all rolled into one." -Steve Gladbach
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by BillMiddlebrook » Tue Dec 22, 2020 7:59 am

headsizeburrito wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:30 am
Possibly dumb idea I just had while in the shower.

It might be helpful to have known/regular avalanche areas marked in a caltopo layer the same way fire activity is. Obviously there is already slope shading that shows you some potential for avy terrain, but that covers a huge area and having an indication of where they have historically happened and where the highest risk is could be good information. Of course you don't want to create a false sense of security and would never have complete data, but I could see it being useful.
I've been working on a way to force the CAIC avy level map to come up on the home page when zones get above a certain level. I just need to add a "Show CAIC Avy Map on Home Page When Above Level: #" or something to the "Display Settings" page so we can each customize if and when the CAIC map is displayed on the home page.

Once I get that finished, I could easily integrate it into the 14ers.com mapping as an overlay.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by RyGuy » Tue Dec 22, 2020 8:02 am

BillMiddlebrook wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 7:59 am
headsizeburrito wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:30 am
Possibly dumb idea I just had while in the shower.

It might be helpful to have known/regular avalanche areas marked in a caltopo layer the same way fire activity is. Obviously there is already slope shading that shows you some potential for avy terrain, but that covers a huge area and having an indication of where they have historically happened and where the highest risk is could be good information. Of course you don't want to create a false sense of security and would never have complete data, but I could see it being useful.
I've been working on a way to force the CAIC avy level map to come up on the home page when zones get above a certain level. I just need to add a "Show CAIC Avy Map on Home Page When Above Level: #" or something to the "Display Settings" page so we can each customize if and when the CAIC map is displayed on the home page.

Once I get that finished, I could easily integrate it into the 14ers.com mapping as an overlay.
Great idea! Anything to bring awareness to all the new folks trying to go try peaks without any knowledge.
"Climbing mountains is the only thing I know that combines the best of the physical, spiritual, and emotional world all rolled into one." -Steve Gladbach
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