/ The Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale ATES for UKC Logbooks

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
GarethSL on 04 Jan 2018
I came across the PDF brochure from the Parks Canada service "Waterfall Ice Climbing and Avalanches in Canada’s Mountain National Parks" (see link below) and wondered if it could be a viable system to include in the route descriptions for the UKC logbooks. A quick search of the forum suggests the ATES has never been discussed before, but is somewhat mentioned in the Rockies destination guide (with a link to the brochure).

As it's a relativley simple and easy to understand system, from a safety perspective surely it's a valuable contribution to include, given the increased awareness of avalanche danger to winter climbers. Helping to support decision making in the mountains with regards to snow conditions.

The system is simple and easy to understand and I'll include it below for those who aren't familiar with it (its certainly new to me). I imagine it can be amended to suit UK winter terrain types. Totally open to discussion for the validity of its application to the UK.

1 Simple - Routes surrounded by low angle or primarily forested terrain; possible brief exposure time to infrequent avalanches.

2 Challenging - Routes with brief exposure to starting zones or terrain traps, or long exposure time in the runout zones of infrequent avalanches.

3 Complex - Routes with frequent exposure to multiple overlapping avalanche paths or large expanses of steep, open terrain; multiple avalanche starting zones and terrain traps or cliffs below.

IT wise, I see it as no more complex than having a simple drop down menu with numbers 1-3 to denote each of the three levels of the scale, perhaps automatically including the corresponding scale description with route details. One flaw I imagine would be the requirement for moderators to update details for each crag which is a time consuming and laborious task. A voting system similar to the star rating could also be an option.

What do you guys think? A system worthy of more widespread adoption or unnecessary? I certainly plan to include it in my route descriptions and hopefully in the guidebook I'm currently working on.

Link to Brochure (PDF):

A more detailed breakdown of the ATES can be seen here:

Sorry for the long post!
Doug on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to GarethSL:

I can see how this would be useful in places like Canada & the Alps where winter routes can be practically roadside or on a serious mountain but I'm struggling to think of any UK winter routes which would be '1 simple' meaning and most/all routes would be in 2 or 3 and I would have thought that for particularly exposed routes (eg those rated as 3) a note in the description would be more appropriate.
Michael Gordon - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to GarethSL:

Yes, a nice idea, but in reality just about everything is going to be 2. Better IMO to check the SAIS reports then consider how the forecast conditions might affect the approach / top out / descent from your route. The trouble is, safety varies hugely with the prevailing conditions (much as a result of wind direction), so I think an attempt to put crags/routes into a category may give the impression that some crag approaches are safe all the time, which is probably rarely the case.
GarethSL on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Yes, I did figure it wouldn't be so valid (or perhaps necessary is a better word?) for much of the UK. As Doug says it's viable for big mountain areas, such as the Alps or in the Americas, where the terrain is much bigger and the objective danger much greater. For the UK though it probably over-complicates things?

I figured that having some idea of how dangerous the terrain is coupled with the SAIS reports would assist visiting climbers to mountainous areas with informed route selection and also equipment preparation (I see that old chestnut, the transceiver debate, is going again).
In reply to GarethSL:

For your info if you go to the BAA app ( currently iOS, Android early next week) you will see a UK version of the Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale.
1. Occasional Exposure (simple terrain)
2. Frequent Exposure (challenging terrain)
3. Continual Exposure (complex terrain).
Level of exposure is also dependant on snow cover and avalanche hazard of course.

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.