A couple of weeks ago I took an AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) course via The Mountaineers, and taught by the good people at BC Adventure Guides.
We spent a couple lecture days in Tacoma going over the materials, watching videos and getting a handle on avalanches in general.
Questions were asked and answered, coffee was consumed and one guy had the wrong classroom.
The following weekend we met for the field portion at Snoqualmie Pass.
DAY ONE (DAY THREE OF CLASS)
Checked NWAC before leaving the house.
We marched up around Silver Fir Lodge to become acquainted with our avalanche beacons and to delve into companion rescue.
It didn’t take long to realize just how screwed you are if you are buried without a beacon.
In very little time at all we went from barely knowing how to turn the things on to locating buried beacons in the snow as a team.
If we had to find the same beacons using only probes….we’d still be looking.
Life and death right there. Seriously.
DAY TWO (DAY FOUR OF CLASS)
Checked NWAC before leaving (there is a theme here)
Today was about putting everything we learned together into a mini tour of Mt.Hyak.
We dug a couple pits and made many field observations along the way.
Whichwaysthewinda’blowin’? Howhardisshea’howlin’? Howmuchsnosa’snowin’?
With the NW slope of Mt.Catherine as our backdrop we focused on snowpack observations and field tests.
Our Rutschblock Test was particularly amusing and insightful.
Skiers curiously eyeballed us as they occasioned by, some even asked about our findings
Oh that reminds me, our “avalanche victims” deserve a round of applause as well…Daytime Emmys for everybody!
As we traveled back to the parking lot some ideas started congealing in my brain:
Reluctant to part with the money for a beacon…?
Experiencing firsthand the difference an avalanche beacon makes when trying to locate an avalanche victim is stunning.
If you don’t want to buy one, you could always rent one instead. BCAdventures offered rentals, as well as a list of retailers that rented beacons as well.
Remember: Money… you can’t take it with you!
“This is some serious s#!t buddy!”
Winter time travel in the mountains is inherently dangerous and many of our familiar summer routes bear grave avalanche risk in the winter months.
Sadly, some kill year after year.
Any loaded slope of sufficient grade can slide and various terrain features can exacerbate that risk.
Knowing how to choose terrain is probably the single greatest thing you can do to save your life.
I probably could have learned this stuff on my own…
Yeah I suppose you could, in theory.
I knew a lot of things going into this class, but I left it with more than I probably would have ever learned by myself.
Also, there is no substitute for learning from an experienced guide that can answer all of your questions… well, about avalanches anyway.
Would you take this course again in hindsight?
Do you know avalanche terrain?
Maybe you are missing out on deeper backcountry because you are too cautious?
Maybe you’ve had one foot in the grave for years without ever even knowing it?
Do you know?
I highly suggest taking an AIARE 1 course in your area if you ever intend to travel in avalanche terrain. (aka teh intir mowntens)
If you don’t, you’ll be happy the person who digs you out did.
If you get dug out…