Colorado: Should you buy an ABS pack? Mine saved my life today, I vote yes.

12 Dec 2010

ok, here goes.

First off, Thanks to www.snowbigdeal.com & Mike Duffy (www.avalanche1.com) without THEM I don't think I'd be telling this story. Of the things that went wrong, there were a bunch of things that went right (basic habits & solid training), and those guys are a big part of the reason they did go right! Today was very high avy danger in CO, you didn't have to check CAIC to see that. HEAVY wind, lots of fresh snow, near whiteout conditions. We went out today & took it easy, not touching ANY big hills, honestly... not touching ANY hills with snow on them.

I was on a 10-15 deg slope, just starting to roll over to a chute, I realized I was in the wrong place (horrid vis, I was off by about 45 deg from the side where I thought I was) & started to turn around. I was already on the edge of the snow, then saw cracking, so I moved onto the rocks to let it go by. No big deal... let the little slide go by. After I was out of the way... I got hit by a freightliner.

I Got slammed so hard I ripped my seat off my sled when I came off, went to the bottom, pulled the ABS trigger, then felt/heard it inflating, got raised to the top, face down, and swam to the edge of the slide. Came to rest about 100 feet later under 6" to 1.5' of snow. I was able to self rescue. 70 feet below me was a cliff that would have destroyed me, period.

this is a channel to the left of the cliff. Getting to the top of the slide was KEY, being able to swim imo kept me alive.
had armor, Leatt brace, and ABS pack.

After being slammed into the ground... I feel all of them played a part. My legs feel like I just swam some V+ creeking... nasty stuff. This was not highmarking, this was not in what we THOUGHT was a dangerous place, we were taking a path I've been on many times, but with no vis, I was off of where I thought & I had NO IDEA what we were underneath. Trigger was remote, crown was 12-15 feet and approx 150-250 feet away. Debris piles are huge, my 320 probe (larger than average) barely hit the bottom of some & didn't touch others. By far the most dangerous slide I've ever seen. I've seen bigger, but nothing that would throw you over a cliff like this one & still have the amount of snow traveling for as long as it did. Snow was still running nearly a minute after I got up. This was one of the small crowns that ran down the other side of the chute, (Well below where I was when it took me) Couldn't get good enough vis to get a decent shot of the main crown. There was debris that was between house & bus size.

Approx 2k ft below the chute: The debris pile is much larger than it looks, photo is taken from a spot which was about 12' deep. This was not some adrenaline fueled F up, the kind of event you can tell yourself you'll never be stupid enough to be in, this was a simple navigational error that we made on a common snowy day & it nearly cost my life.

Go get a pack. My sled didn't make it home today, but I did. THAT is the difference.