Silverton Avalanche School Level 2 – Part 1

This past weekend, I joined Friends of Berthoud Pass on a trip to Silverton for SAS‘ Level 2 avalanche course. I wasn’t planning on joining them for this trip, but someone else had to drop out and I filled their spot on short-ish notice. Chris, Gary, and I left Denver late morning on Wednesday, planning to get over Red Mountain Pass with a little daylight left, and get settled in Silverton in time to get a decent night’s sleep. We made it, and beat all but one of the eight others joining us.

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Friends of Berthoud Pass On-Snow Weekend

This past weekend, Friends of Berthoud Pass held the on-snow portion of their grassroots avalanche education program. I volunteered to facilitate groups both days, and I’m exhausted after two ten-hour days up at the pass. Tempted by breakfast burritos at the instructor refresher, Lauren and I signed up to show up at 6am Saturday morning to prepare the beacon-rescue scenarios. When the 4am wakeup call is three weeks away, a free breakfast burrito sounds like a great deal. At 4am, it’s suddenly a much-worse bargain. Nonetheless, we dragged ourselves up there way too early. Continue reading

Becoming Educated in Crested Butte

As most of you are aware, I’ve been skiing and climbing in the backcountry for a few years. At first I didn’t know all that much about snow and avalanches, and looking back I’m fortunate that I didn’t do anything TOO stupid. As time went on I’ve learned more about avalanches, largely thanks to Friends of Berthoud Pass with their very inexpensive avalanche safety class. Despite hearing that it would be mostly review given my level of experience, I decided it was finally time to take an AIARE Level I course. Lauren and I settled on a three-day class with Crested Butte Mountain Guides in Crested Butte over this past weekend. I only took photos during the field sessions for obvious reasons, and if you want a full-course synopsis you can look here, as I won’t be going over the whole thing.

Friday’s field sesion consisted of checking beacon function, followed by performing beacon searches. As you can see, it was snowing. Jayson (lead guide and owner of CBMG) would later inform us that according to remote instruments, every time we went out into the field it was snowing at a rate of 3″ per hour. Continue reading

Natural Slide at Berthoud

This was taken in Current Creek, just north of Berthoud pass, on Sunday morning. It’s a natural slide on a southeast aspect, probably in the range of 40 degrees. If you look closely, it appears that it released at the small rock outcropping, likely due to the heat and sun. The layers that let go match what we found on a nearby SE aspect, that being ~8″ to a slick crust and then another one ~6″ down. You can see that it stepped down to the next layer fairly close to where it released.

Berthoud Pass Avy Class

Yesterday I was up on Berthoud Pass for the on-snow session of the “advanced avalanche awareness” class put on by Friends of Berthoud Pass. It was a full day of skinning, digging, analyzing the snowpack, and beacon rescue. Much thanks to Jamie and Liz for sharing their time and knowledge to help save lives. Here are a few photos from the day:

Michael cutting out a column for a shovel compression test:

Nate flailing around in the snow after attempting a windblown traverse:

Yesterday was the first day I got to skin with my Factors (with intuitions) and Dukes. People have complained about the weight and lack of stride (for both), though I had no issues. I was able to comfortable get my toes to the tip of the opposing ski on each stride. On another note, my Bluehouse Districts have continued to decamber. They are now rockered continuously from tip to tail. Absolutely amazing performance in powder, not so much elsewhere.