Avalanche Survival Tips
Hundreds of people die each year around the world from avalanche related deaths. People want to get out there and have a great time climbing and enjoy the outdoors. You need to have the knowledge, understanding, preparedness and mind frame for be alert before venturing out in landslide terrain.
If you aren’t prepared, and aware of the proper safety measures when in snowslide area(s) you are in danger of death. According to the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education case histories show that red flag warning signs were ignored by people caught and killed in avalanches. Furthermore, 90% of recreational avalanche accidents are caused by the climbers.
According to the Wilderness and Environmental Magazine; a report was written by Scott McIntosh, M.D. and his co-authors from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. They reviewed records from the Utah Avalanche Center and the medical examiner and concluded that the majority of avalanche deaths are from asphyxiation. Furthermore, the medical examiner reports that 85.7% of deaths were due to asphyxiation. Similar reports state that 2/3 of avalanche victims die from injuries while falling down at rapid speeds due to trauma from speeds of 80 mph or more. It is a very serious matter when climbing mountains in snow slide country.
Make sure you are very well prepared for your trip by learning as much as you can about how to, what to take and safety precautions involved. That way your experience will be safer and funner than if you went out in it with a lack of awareness. Most of all you need to know the sign to look for and dress accordingly as well as have the proper safety protection devices; along with being with a partner or in a group. Always make sure others back home know where you are going and for how long. It is another precaution against disaster. Always better safe than sorry.
Planning and Preparation
Plan days ahead of time if not weeks, or months before the trip. Read guidebooks to prepare for the trip. Take an avalanche safety training course. The course can be designed for whatever activity you are doing: climbing, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, etc. watch videos so you are aware of what you are getting yourself into. Know where you are going, and for how long, and who with. Be organized, and know whose all planning to be there for the trip, what size of group, and so forth.
Avalanche country is extremely dangerous terrain; especially for the ignorant. They are at greater risk but even very knowledgeable and intelligent people can die in a snowslide. It really comes down to your knowhow out there in the back country and have had proper training courses. Organize before the day comes for the trip by taking a course or two in mountain climbing, safety issues for when you are in avalanche danger zones. So you will know all the ends and out before you actually begin to climb that mountain. Even down to what to wear for the weather conditions, and what to bring along for the trip. Remember to never travel alone, and always check weather forecast.
Check avalanche reports before you head out the door for the trip. And remember it is okay to change your mind at the last moment if you decide, or feel unsafe about the weather, or situation. Go with your gut feeling it might save your life someday. Not only with that but you must know the visual and physical signs of danger in order to stay safe. If you feel uneasy about being in avalanche danger areas than it would be best to stick to lower terrain and maybe somewhere at a good distance away from the avalanche danger slopes.
Be open to any unexpected crises if you do climb the snow covered mountain. You may want to contact the US Forest Service Snow Ranger, ski patrol in the area to inform them of your excursion and to find out any information you should know about. You can also checkout the Internet, listen to the local radio, TV news reports on the area or possibly contact the resort, or government office where you are going. In addition there are hot line number(s) to find out about the local weather report(s) for avalanche danger in the area you are heading too. Two separate sources for information on the conditions would be helpful and might make you feel more comfortable. If both reports indicate safe conditions than by means go if you are ready and willing. Remember you can never be to sure; so a second report, opinion, or advice is always very helpful.
Prepare for the Trip: Take an avalanche course, or two. Read guidebooks and magazines on mountain climbing, and survival / safety skills for the trip. There are books you can checkout at the library on avalanche accident case studies, documents of what went wrong, and any other knowledge you need right down to proper attire.
Avalanche Safety Gear
Slope Meter is used to determine the angle of a slope if it is dangerous or not. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation “90 percent of all avalanches start on slopes of 30-45 degrees and about 98 percent of all avalanches occur on slopes of 25-50 degrees”.
Rescue Beacon: You will be able to locate people that have been buried alive in an avalanche. It is a must have for saving lives in avalanche country. They range around $300.00 or you can purchase one in a backpack that includes all your avalanche safety gear for around $500.00
Ava-Lungs is a great tool to increase your chance for survival by enabling you to breath once buried; by drawing air directly from the snow pack. You will need to wear it on your outer clothing. The Ava-Lung membrane increases the surface area from which you breathe, making it possible to pull this air from the snow for survival.
Avalanche Cord this is a cheaper version and an old way of saving lives but can still work. By means of following the rope to where the person or people have been buried alive. The cord is about 30 feet long and attaches to you and then you drag the cord behind you. If you get buried alive then the cord is used to located the victim.
Avalanche Air-Bag System Backpack systems that inflate in an effort to keep you afloat once caught. These relatively new devices have been shown to help avalanche victims stay above the surface. Your wear the system in backpack and pull a release when the avalanche starts. They’re expensive (about $500-1000), but they can save your life.
overnight sleeping bag for emergencies fit on your backpack. You will want a way to start a fire also.
Probes can break through layers of snow and show you the depth and position the victim is buried in the snow.
Avalanche Shovel is something happens everyone in your party should be carrying a fold up shovel in order to dig out people that have been buried.
Backpack: A must have would be a proper backpack with good support. Packs like the “Mammut Nirvana 35 Avalanche Package” ranges around $500 and include avalanche safety gear.
Clothing: warm, waterproof jacket, pants, warm gloves, socks, hat, and bring extras of each. Also, Thermal underwear. You might want to have on a second layer for warmth on colder days.
Survival Blanket it is one of the lightest things you will carry that is crucial to survival in the mountains. Carry one in your backpack. Costs around $4.00
First Aid Kit for all your outdoor adventures is a must have.
Batteries: have extra batteries for your battery operated equipment such as for your beacon, flashlight, etc.
Observation Pay attention to your surroundings and know what to look for and hearing; when it comes to dangerous situations on, or around a mountain. You must know the Red Flags when it comes to weather changes, and act on those conditions / situations.
If you are caught in an avalanche drop what you have and seek shelter behind rocks, trees or even vehicles if you are near one. Turn away from the avalanche crouch down and cover your nose and mouth. Most avalanche deaths are caused by asphyxiation so creating an air space. Which is one of the most important things you can do for survival. Yell, or make noises when you hear rescue workers nearby. If you are unable to get out try doing swimming motions to loosen up the snow and to try an escape. Statics show us that victims that are buried alive must be found within 15 minutes for any reasonable chances of survival.
Resources Shopping Online for your Back country needs. http:www.backcountry.com
Information on avalanche courses: http://www.avtraining.org
Avalanche Centers http://avalanche.org
Cause of Death in Avalanche Fatalities