Mountain Project Logo

Winter is coming. Are you avy aware?

jackson reich · · slc · Joined Apr 2019 · Points: 90

trailridge I agree there is no substitution for experience however the know before you go program's purpose is to educate people using others mistakes and experiences so you don't put your life on the line in avalanche terrain and taking an avalanche class is the fastest and safest way to be safe in avalanche terrain. i feel almost everyone in avalanche terrain without some amount of training is being reckless.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

got to love the n000bs who have taken a course and then act all high and mighty.   Yes I climb in avy terrain. no I have not taken the course. yes I am still alive after 38yrs ice climbing. no I do Not carry a shovel , probe or beacon.    most of the time  I am pretty conservative about snow conditions.   probably more conservative than if I had taken the course and had all the toys.  Most of the time when someone gets flushed in my area that I know intimately  I know that I would not have been there doing that on that day.  I keep a very  close eye on temp, sunshine  and precipitation in all the areas that I typically climb for the whole season and can very accurately predict ice and snow conditions on any given day in those areas without resorting to asking on the internet.  Not that I am above cheating and taking advantage of photos I see on FB. Its just rarely a surprise  to me when someone posts that a climb is in our out. 

Kip Kasper · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 200

I don’t bring avy gear ice climbing unless I’m skiing there. For the climbing itself having a beacon seems fairly useless. If it rips it’ll be from above and bury both of you.
I have no formal avy training, beyond my own experience. As an anecdote I’ve climbed routes in very sketchy conditions many times and turned around when I observed that it wasn’t safe. I’ve also just gone up stuff and literally touched off slabs one at a time from the side, and felt good about the level of risk. If I couldn’t have popped the slabs so easily it would have been a different story and I would have turned around. 
some of the sketchiest things I’ve seen in the mountains are from people freshly certified in avy 1. It’s not safe out there and if there’s too much doubt in an outcome bailing isn’t lame. 

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

I have bailed a few times because of snow conditions. more often I have either chosen a different objective or gone Nordic skiing that day. 

Jeff J · · Bozeman · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 110
Dara wrote:
Do you climb in avalanche terrain?
Yes, at times.

If so, do you carry a beacon, probe and shovel?
Yes

Have you taken an avalanche safety course?
Yes

If so, did you feel the course was geared in any way to you as an ice climber?
Not really, it was geared more toward skiers, but the information was still relevant.



Glowering · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 5

Do you climb in avalanche terrain? Yes. Probably everyone does whether they know it or not. May not be avalanche conditions at the time though.
If so, do you carry a beacon, probe and shovel? Sometimes
Have you taken an avalanche safety course? Yes
If so, did you feel the course was geared in any way to you as an ice climber? No. But the knowledge applied to everyone. There was some skiing specific knowledge though.

Some very basin questions/info about avalanches that everyone should know:

1. Did it snow recently? Most avalanches take place after recent snowfall.
2. Do you see evidence of recent avalanches around you? Huge red flag that you're in avy conditions and to be very careful.
3. Or you on or under a slope of 34 to 45 degrees? Prime Avy terrain. Or 30-55 may avy in extreme conditions.

If you say yes to the above you're at risk and should probably know more to stay safe if you're going out in those conditions/terrain.

Glowering · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 5

Learning avy awareness is kind of like learning trad climbing IMO. You can learn it on your own. Books, videos, and experience helps. But a good instructor will help you learn a lot quicker and perhaps prevent you from making dumb mistakes. you can have a lot of backcountry experience and never had a problem, but you could also drive a car without a seat belt for years and just be lucky. But you could also take an avy course and think you know more than you really do and take more risk than you really realize. I took a course that was about 5 classroom sessions and 3 field sessions and felt like I still just learned the basics. I learned enough to know when it's dangerous but not enough to judge how dangerous it is and if it's safe enough to push it in sketchy conditions. I've also got a lot of experience and have learned when I think it's safe enough for me to go out.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

or you could take a bunch of Avy courses, become an avy instructor and get flushed a bunch of times and or killed.  It almost seems to me that the more you study this stuff the more chances you take.  seems to be too easy to get into the we are pros, we have all the latest gear and techniques lets go have a look thought process... . then powder fever sets in and they end up takeing way more risks than someone like myself with no training but a fair bit of experience who knows that shit is dangerous.  

Jane Atlas · · Unknown Hometown · Joined 17 days ago · Points: 0

A safety course is a must, even the smallest of new info you learn is valuable with ice climbing.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

made it to 57  without your Must course..... 

Ted Raven · · Squamish, BC · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5

I just came back from the Canadian Rockies and made a point of carrying a beacon and gear with me on the approaches. It seems stupid and like overkill, but I am trying to change old habits.

Dara · · Peep's republic · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 20

Another failure of this survey is that I should have asked: Where specifically do you climb?  Folks who climb in the Canadian Rockies encounter waaaaay more avalanche terrain than those who climb only in the NE United States (excepting Mount Washington). Likewise, it would be silly to carry around avy gear for a day in the Ouray Ice Park; but go a couple of miles up Camp Bird Mine Road and its a different story--depending on conditions, the risk can be very real. OR....head south to Eureka and you might scare yourself silly sidehilling across a loaded 35 degree slope to get to the Third Gully. Or not--depending on conditions.

Do you actually know whether your ice objective AND the approach are in avy terrain? Do you know how to find out?

In the Canadian Rockies, Parks Canada has a rating system for ice climbs with regard to their exposure to avalanches, the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES). https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/securiteenmontagne-mountainsafety/avalanche/echelle-ratings Just like anything else, a publication like this won't necessarily prevent avalanche fatalities, but it is yet another source of information and a tool for climbers to evaluate their risk. I wonder how difficult it would be to put together something like this for the US.

Marlin Thorman · · Spokane, WA · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 471

Do you climb in avalanche terrain?
Yes, I mostly climb in the Canadian Rockies, or Montana.  But I make my route selection based on the day's forecast.  If it is a danger rating of "considerable" or above then I am not going to climb any routes in challenging or complex terrain.  For example I have wanted to climb Polar Circus for like 4 years but every time I am up there the danger rating is "considerable" in the alpine.  Maybe I will get lucky this year with a more stable snowpack.

Do you carry beacon, probe and shovel?
Not on the climb.  I might on the approach if I am skiing into the climb but it depends on the approach terrain.

Taken a course?
Yes AIARE 1 and signed up for AST 2 in a couple weeks

Course geared to ice climbing?
Nope, definitely geared to backcountry skiing.

Ted Raven · · Squamish, BC · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5
Marlin Thorman wrote: I have wanted to climb Polar Circus for like 4 years but every time I am up there the danger rating is "considerable" in the alpine.  Maybe I will get lucky this year with a more stable snowpack.

Do you carry beacon, probe and shovel?
Not on the climb.  I might on the approach if I am skiing into the climb but it depends on the approach terrain.

I'd recommend carrying the gear on the climb as well. If only to help with body recovery. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Ice Climbing
Post a Reply to "Winter is coming. Are you avy aware?"

Log In to Reply