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zular 11-05-2006 10:22 AM

Who's been caught?
As backcountry season starts up I thought it might be helpful to share our avalanche experiences. We can all learn from our near misses. So in the interest of freshies and staying safe here's a story.

While on an early season tour off the top of red mnt pass we had already skied a great shot off McMillan Peak. We skinned up to the saddle of the next bowl, looking down about 800 vert of pow. To the skier's left the saddle climbed up to a hight point. As it tapered down to where we were, there were a series of subtle gullies separated by ribs. Below the pitch eased to an apron type area with several pitches below. My friend decided to ski the main gully. He did a quick ski cut, then dropped in and made turns to the designated safety zone. I had decided to ski the rib just to the right of his tracks. I cut the top (about 30degrees steepness), then began making turns. On about my 4th turn, the entire rib fractured into a jigsaw of snow. I immediatly lost floatation and quickly cut back into the gully and hauled ass out of there. --

Lesson learned- sometimes gullies can be safer than ribs because the snow is deeper and there is a stronger bridge over the weak layers down below. We were skiing in the san juans-known for sketchy pack. We had dug a hole earlier in the day and found about 8 inches of granular below a well consolodated pack of about 30 inches. The fracture I triggered also caused other nearby slopes to rip. We tip toed out of there and made it back saftly.

- Any other stories? Taking avy courses is a great start, but field experience is what we really learn from.

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