Sunday, March 1, 2009

Avy gear can save more than lives

I just finished taking an Level I avalanche course through the American Avalanche Institute. The course consisted of two 3-hour evening classes and two full length field days in Teton Pass. During the course, we learned about weather, snowpack, and terrain features. In the field we practiced searching with beacons and probes and we also dug a number of snow pits. I was already familiar with most of the information we covered, but it was good to refresh my memory and to get the certification.

The class consisted of about 23 "students". I knew about seven other people in the class, which made it fun. During the field days, we split into three groups, each with 7 or 8 people. Yesterday, we toured into Phillips Canyon to practice search techniques. Today we went along the South ridge of the pass and back to Christmas Tree Bowl to learn about snow pit techniques.

Yesterday, Eric and I learned that snow tools come in useful for more than just saving lives. At the end of the day, we got back to the car around 5pm. Rebecca, the driver, had not returned with her group yet. When she arrived with the keys, Eric thought it would be a good idea to start the car...except he somehow managed to not unlock the doors before closing them and locking us out of Rebecca's running car. Everyone from the class was leaving, so she got a ride with someone else back to town to get a spare set of keys while Eric and I remained at the parking lot with the running car.

We didn't especially like the idea of waiting around for an entire hour, so we decided we should figure out a way to break in. By now it was almost 6pm and on the edge of getting dark. Rebecca drives a Subaru so the door frame does not go entirely around the windows. Eric got out his snow tools. We used the blade of the shovel to pry the window out from the door column about a quarter inch. It was barely enough space to squeeze the extended probe through the crack. I instructed from the far window as he guided the tip of the probe to the power window switch. Bingo!

[ Several strengh tests with a snow pit today proved to us that the snowpack was stable in Christmas Tree Bowl ]

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