I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
No reproduction on other media without the photographer's permission.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Post Avalanche postualising, Stevie Haston.

You can be very lucky with avalanches, but you only have to be unlucky once. I have been very lucky, I also have very good judgment, which I am still acquiring. Hopefully I will acquire a bit more, but don’t be surprised if I don’t, or if I get nabbed by an avalanghi.
Any way you can have the latest Avalanche transceiver, the latest carbon probes, and the latest lightest shovel, but how do these help you if you go out alone like I do. They don’t help you! The only thing that keeps you alive is avalanche avoidance.

Now then theres is a fine line between being careful and paranoid and thus doing yourself out of the joy of great snow. One day last week I was with a bunch of guys, some guides, a couple of top skiers and a champ snowboarder, the conditions were very bad. The guides turned round, while the snow slashers continued. I asked one of the guides what was up and he shrugged and said it was a group decision, I told him what he was going to miss and he shrugged again. We parted company and three of us slashed the slope like Zoro on amphetamine. It was great, where we lucky? Or where we stupid or did we even care?

I know we were right, however, theres always an if with avalanches, it’s a big if.

A few years ago I did a route and was kind of stuck with the getting off part, as a gale force wind, in the 5 hours I took to do the climb, probably dumped 3 meters in places at the top of the decnt gully. What to do? Sit there and wait a couple of days, phone for a rescue (no phone) or just snowboard the gully. Anyway I didn’t really have an option, no food, no pit. So I just snowboarded it and it was great. I cut thru the cornice and the snow was great.

So that was great. A few days ago I slid into a gully, clearly with a lot of snow in it and after a few meters the whole lot went. I was backside and for a while seemed to be going slower than the snow, so I kept using edge and hoping. More snow joined the fray, it went over the top of my head, I was under and could not turn into the fall line to try gaining speed, looked like it was going to be bad. I had a neck gaiter on and breathing was no bother but it didn’t look good, still I didn’t give up. I went over a little bump in the gully and a bit of a change in angle of my body put more snow behind me, this forced me off the bed, and then I kinda undulated my back and it brought me nearer the surface. Luck at this point struck again as the gully broadened, and my head popped out into air, but my board was un-turnable, stuck in honey as it was. Another bump under my tip turned the board for me, and I was away, safely under my own control. Happy, I enjoyed a great decent in bottomless powder.

If you don’t give up, you have a chance. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. As an aside many experts and avalanche gurus have died in avalanches, I have lost friends and acquaintances, so clearly it’s not an exact science. The safest thing is not to ski, not to board and not to climb. You don’t buy safety, you pay for good days and experience, don’t pay too much, be safe.