/ basic avalanche safety and gear

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ford23 - on 05 Dec 2012
im hoping to do some touring for the first time this winter in the pyrenees, and some general winter climbing. Im hoping to do this with some ppl but imagine i wil also try some easy solo touring. Ive bought mountain guide book and one on avalanche saftey, but in terms of kit, what can ppl recomend best for all forms of satey when touring alone?
featuresforfeet - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford:
Rabbits foot
Horse shoe
Etc ;-)
Blinder - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford: Knowedge.
OwenM - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford: If your on your own no bit of kit will keep you safe, only thing you can do is avoid avalanche prone slopes, easier said than done. It takes time and practice and more practice. Beacons, probes and shovels might save your live but only if there's someone left on the surface to find you and dig you out.
Avalanches aside, going alone into the winter hills (something I do all the time) you've got to accept even a relatively minor injury will be life threatening. Snap an ankle and you can't walk out, your in big trouble.
Shearwater - on 05 Dec 2012
A PLB or a SPOT could stop disabling incidents becoming fatal ones, and an avalanche airbag might prevent you being buried but in both cases they can't prevent the incident in the first place.

Might be worthwhile taking an avalanche awareness course.
Kean - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford: Veeery tricky to stay out of trouble in avalanche terrain without field experience and somebody teaching you stuff in the field. Learning to read the local avalanche bulletin and a basic av awareness course would be a very wise start...

I would highly recommend Bruce Tremper's book "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain". Also, his (and a great many other people's) frequent Youtube postings on field tests for Utah Avalanche Centre are highly informative
E.g. here

A Youtube search on "Extended column test" will get you lots of hits to start off.

Also, this website is a great starting point, containing tutorials & stats:

Local knowledge could keep you out of trouble to a certain extent: try asking a local skier for some suggestions for some objectively safe ski tours.
kevin stephens - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford:
> Hi,
> , what can ppl recomend best for all forms of satey when touring alone?
> thanks

Somebody else to ski-tour with
In reply to sethmford: Am selling stuff, probe and shovel, here:
doz on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford: Shovel & good down jacket....transceivers and probes ain't any use on your own! Then it's all about route choice which If on your tod usually means avoiding all the good ski slopes! Don't take chances...the experts get it wrong!
alasdair19 on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to sethmford: be very,very cautious solo touring. Its dangerous and since your just starting out you could be taking big risks with out realising it. Do a course, only consider it in low avi risk conditions and make come friends. local french alpine clubs will run meets and they are usually very beginner friendly
kenr - on 06 Dec 2012
The truth is that no reasonably safe way to solo any half-way interesting ski tours on your first winter trip to the Pyrenees.

And really there's no reasonably safe way to do any halfway-interesting ski tour with random _partners_ -- even with carrying the usual safety gear. A rather high percentage of skiers who get themselves into a situation where they need to be rescued by partners with avy beacons + shovels end up dying anyway.

And a substantial percentage of the supposedly-experienced random partners you find are more likely to get you into dangerous terrain than you would on you own soloing. (Because most of the truly experienced + smart + reasonably safe ski-tourers are not _looking_ to go out with a newby partner.)

Club outings are not as safe as they used to be: people die in avalanches on those too. (for one thing, club outings _routinely_ ignore the long-known findings about group dynamics-which the excellent Bruce Tremper book covers).

Therefore, if you want reasonable safety on your first winter holiday with backcountry ski touring in the Pyrenees, hire a professional Guide.
(But that's not as safe as it used to be either.)

Avalanche hazard is very very complicated. You must have a radical strategy to do backcountry ski touring with reasonable safety -- different from how most ski-tourers do it.


kenr - on 06 Dec 2012
I'll add that
I've done over 1000 days of backcountry ski touring in Europe + North America (but never in the Pyrenees).
Several hundred of those days I went solo.
I have never been even partially buried.
I have taken three or four "rides" in shallow sluffs where I stayed completely on the surface. In all but one of those I was a visitor skiing out with a local supposed-expert who told me it was OK to ski it. The one where I was soloing, I was carried all of five meters before the little slide stopped.

I also have several long-time partners who live in different states in Europe + USA: each has done ski-touring over 1000 days, also with hundreds of those solo. Interesting that we've all hit on a similar strategy for avalanche safety (which is not what's taught in most courses). Out of thousands of days, one of those partners once got buried up to his knees (and not with me).

Therefore I do think it is possible to do interesting backcountry ski tours with reasonable safety, provided you have a radical strategy with lots + lots of intelligence + experience.

But I do not believe it that someone who practices ski-touring on the basis of one or two holiday weeks per year can do it with reasonable safety. The radical strategy for them must be to hire a professional Guide.


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