We’ve handed over our blog this week to Chris Galley. It’s an account of an avalanche accident that he was involved in recently in the St Gervais side country. At 16 years of age he’s the youngest student to have attended an Avalanche Geeks Level 1 course. Bruce and I were really unsure how much of the course input stuck with the young man…apparently quite a lot. Well done Chris, I’ll ride the backcountry with you anytime….
I was skiing wth friends and had decided to go on a well known off piste run, a bit through trees and the pure powder. My local friend wanted to spice it up a bit. So at the start of the route there are two routes, straight down or along a rock face. I had recently completed the Avalanche course with Mike and Bruce, but my friends are both locals to the area, we started to go but I was getting flashbacks of the learning from the course on new snow, bonding, facet crystals etc, so I told the guys to stop, visually assessed the terrain and you could already see some signs of a previous avalanche, so I told the guys to walk back slowly to me. There was a tree-line at the top of the rock-face, and two corridors off to the left and right.
I tested the snow with my pole for a crystal-line and whilst it was fine by the trees, along the rock-face my pole went through the snow hit an ice-layer and then straight through into air, so I carefully retraced my steps and briefed my friends. They were keen to continue, saying that “they knew the slopes well” and “come on guys we didn’t come here for nothing, did we?”, but I convinced my other friend to position himself to the far side of the slope, out of danger, and viewing the whole slope, unfortunately none of us had avalanche beacons. My friend then decided he was going to show us, and I was positioned behind the trees, he started going across the right corridor and the whole slope let go, he jumped towards me and was able to scramble away to safety. A little shaken up we walked back up and took the normal route down and continued on our way.
Anyway the bottom line is that I would like to give a shout out to anyone who skis the back-country, do an avalanche course, and I have to thank Bruce and Mike at Avalanche Geeks for giving me enough experience to at least question the slope and line my friends were taking, and to realise that a simple course can truly save your life!