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Alpine Climbing and avalanche beacons


Original Post
Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 230

I am going to climb Mt Rainier (Disappointment Cleaver Route) next month and some people in my group do not think avalanche gear is essential. I have been through an avalanche class, and they definitely taught that you should never go into avalanche terrain without beacon/probe/shovel, but that class was mostly focused on backcountry skiing.

I am guessing the snow pack will be pretty stable in June, but I figured it is early enough that new snow would not be all that uncommon. I am curious if other climbers would take all the avy gear on Mt. Rainier in June.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175

snow falls on rainier every month of the year.

i brought my avy gear last time i was on rainier and i plan to bring it again in july.

i know of one instance found here:
avalanche.org/data.php?date…;sort=&id=516

where climbers were hit by an avalanche on rainier in june.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175

i thought this quote from that link i sent you might be a good answer to your question:

"The current high avalanche danger is not unusual in June when winter and summer conditions mix, said Paul Baugher, co-director of International Mountain Guides and director of the Northwest Avalanche Institute."

Andy Novak · · Golden, Co · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 355

I've been on the mountain in June twice, and did not take any gear. I'd say about half do and half don't. The mountain had not had any significant snow in weeks, and coupled with warm temps, I took a risk and thought it was stable enough. My main concern was/is just above Ing. flats and right before the Cleaver. But if those seracs slide, beacons probably won't be of much help except for locating your remains.

Bottom line: If she's received any new snow recently and the rest of your team is carrying, better safe than sorry to carry. If warm temps persist and you feel you can move fast, don't bother and try to be down before noon. My two cents.

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268

Though unlikely, if something did rip and tore you apart, they can find your body faster for your loved ones. That's not a small deal. At least wear a Ricco reflector.

Ryan Marsters · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 848

If conditions are such that avalanches are a concern, one shouldn't be climbing the route anyways. Or be prepared to bail.

If a big avalanche or serac fall occurs, it is unlikely for a beacon to save your life, but it might help with locating your body.

I personally would not bring avy gear in June. If there's a heavy storm during the week before the climb, I'd find a different objective.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

I would agree with Andy's assessment of IG flats. Personally I have never brought my avy beacon on Rainier, but it's in my backyard and I will not climb it if there has been any recent new snow up high or if any weather is forecast to come in. I prefer my snow firm and fast to boot up, I'm not a fan of slogging in new snow.

jaredj · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 165

An extra 3 lbs per person (beacon + shovel + probe)? No thanks. I'll also not head up if there's a lot of fresh or otherwise some unique situation that has raised the avy hazard.

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268
jaredj wrote:An extra 3 lbs per person (beacon + shovel + probe)? No thanks.
I thought a shovel and probe was standard for glacier travel, probe for crevasses and bridge depths? I don't think my shovel ( not the most expensive one or anything ) and my probe weigh 3lbs. Will weigh when I get home.
Jack Servedio · · Raleigh,NC · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 30

The shovel, probe, and beacon I have together weight about 2.5lbs - about the same as a liter of water.

Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 230

Thanks. I think I got the info I was looking for.

Ryan Marsters · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 848

If the glacier requires flotation, conditions would be such that I might bring probe and shovel per person.

If the glacier requires camping, I might bring one probe and shovel per team.

If the glacier requires neither camping nor flotation, conditions might be such that I'd bring neither; trim the weight for a speedier ascent and descent before things heat up.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162
Thumer wrote:I have been through an avalanche class, and they definitely taught that you should never go into avalanche terrain without beacon/probe/shovel
Avalanche terrain assessment includes snow conditions, recent weather history, and current/future weather.

In other words, there is a lot of terrain that is definitely avalanche terrain in some scenarios (fresh snow on a crust, for example) and low risk in others (firm cold snow after freeze-thaw).

If you have typical June conditions, I would probably not carry avy gear, personally. You need to assess the conditions at the time of your climb, but if there is not a bunch of fresh snow or warm/soft conditions, you probably don't need to carry.
Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 230

Thanks Ryan, Kyle, and everyone else. You guys bring up a good point. It really depends on the conditions, and that is pretty hard to determine a month out when your trying to decide who brings what gear. I am in the position where I already own the gear, and other guys in my group don't. So they are trying to decide what to buy/rent. Sounds like we should just watch the weather, and if there has been some recent snow or snow is in the forecast maybe rent a some avy gear. If the avy conditions are good, don't bother.

My whole group realizes we shouldn't climb in high avalanche danger. It is the moderate danger I get worried.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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