Monday, December 12, 2011

Wolf Creek Backcountry Avalanche Class

We are now certified in level one avalanche awareness.  This was a really fun weekend.  We met such a wonderful mix of people, from all over.  Even a man from North Brookfield, MA.  Our course instructor grew up in Bridgeton, ME.  It was fun reminiscing about Wachusett Mt and proving once again if you can ski the east your capable of pretty much anything.

The first day started with 9 hours in class, with a couple of breaks.  We learned terminology, and extensively the DMF (decision making framework).  Basically, the best practice to avoid avalanche terrain and TRAVEL WISELY is to CHOOSE TERRAIN, OBSERVE, PLAN, & TEAMWORK. 

On Saturday we spent the night at 11,000+ feet up at Wolf Creek Pass.  A reasonable sleep except the bitter cold trips to the porta potty.  We spent the first half of the day in the BCA beacon park.  We really got an understanding of the technology that the beacons have and got to practice pin pointing and finding buried beacons.  Then we moved over to the snow plowed banks and there we practiced digging out a buried victim.  The plowed snow has very similar characteristics of the debris snow and is quite difficult to move. 

We started our accent to the summit to look at a recent avalanche and observe the snow on different terrain and aspects to better understand what the daily bulletins were describing.  To say the least we were so WINDED.  After the shoveling it was all up hill.  The descent was fun though, as we got to more southern facing aspects a crust had developd on the snow, fortunately our huge snowboards blasted through that while all the skiers got hung up. 

Our final day was preceded by the best sleep ever and we really cruised up the mountain on our skins, at noon we dug snow pits and practiced all the different tests techniques to better understand and point out weak layers.  It was really fun and the pit we dug to the ground was taller than us. When we finished 2 hours later we needed to really motor up the road if we wanted to get a run in.  Hannah was spent so she and a few others turned back and I went ahead with the rest.  We then climbed about 700 vertical feet in 14 minutes. (wheeze) The run down was dream like and I really fell in love with my new abilities to manage terrain and find stable slopes to ride.

Of course before we got back to the parking lot the instructor dropped a fake avalanche on us and it was hard and scarry to find the victim on my snowboard.  It took us less than fifteen minuets to find the buried beacon.  But I would rather practice prevention than search and rescue. 

The class was phenomenal and I will recommend this school specifically to anyone interested in taking there Avy 1 or 2.  In the least the class size was 8 students to 2-3 instructors.  Where others are 30 to 2.  That says it all!!

Thanks, Sandy, Casey, and Mark. 

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