Archive for February, 2009

Level 2 Tour Leadership & Avalanche Hazard

February 24, 2009

February 12-15, 09

Instructors Steve Conger, from Golden, British Columbia and SMG Winter Director, Kirk Bachman were joined by Zach Crist, Rob Landis, Sigi Vogl,Will Smith, and Joe Tobias for the Sawtooth Level 2 Avalanche Course. The 4-day program is geared toward experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders who have years of field time and a current Level 1. This group brought the requisite years of BC skiing experience as well as bonus related outdoor experience, ranging from Forest Service avy forecasting (Will), Big Mountain Skiing Athletics (Zach), years of mountain guiding (Sigi), Outdoor program directing (Rob) and serious backcountry skiing (Joe) who also assists @ SMG.

Class in the Snowpit

Class in the Snowpit

Fieldbook & Surface hoar buried

Field Notebook w/ buried Surface hoar

The 4 days included field work in multiple complex rescue scenarios, snowpack study with an emphasis in performing standardized tests and snowpack analysis. With tours on both Galena Pass and @ Copper Mountain our group found remarkably different structure, strength, and energy (stability wheel snowpack analysis) in the two local snow zones to bring the topic of snow climates into focus with the Continental and Intermountain snowpacks 40 miles apart. Tours focused on pre-trip weather and avalanche forecasting on a daily basis with lots of opportunities to manage the tour group in challenging avalanche terrain.

Copper Summit

Copper Summit

Turns of Copper

Turns off Copper

Evening sessions explored how human behavior can create decision-making traps for tour leadership, also: more in-depth science discussions in snowpack processes in the formation of weak layer development; the role of spatial variability on slopes in the initiation and propagation of slab avalanches; & the mechanics of fracture.

Shovel Tilt Test

Shovel Tilt Test

Cracking Slab Friday 13th

Cracking Slab Friday 13th

Lots of time was spent mastering observations in the field and recording data at the ‘SWAG’ standard and using the field notebook. Fortunately, our field time dropped us into some great terrain for skiing, so some fun-times were mixed in with the education. During the course, light snow and facets made for great skiing, and are now the buried weak layer for another avalanche cycle in the wings a week later.

Human-Goat Factor in Decision-making

Human-Goat Factor in Decision-making

AM Wx & Fx Tour Plan with Will

AM Wx & Fx Tour Plan with Will

We received great feedback from the participants on the intensive learning style with a compliment of formal science and practical management of groups and decision-making while in avalanche terrain. Kirk and Steve have teamed up to teach this course for ten years. Thanks for coming down from Canada, Steve to join us in the awesome sawtooth terrain, EH!

Thanks for sending us some fotos Zach!

Wisegoat and Zach

Wisegoat and Zach

McGee Custom @ Williams Peak

February 8, 2009

Recently enjoyed a great adventure of 5 days of skiing with Dennis McGee and Friends. SMG guides Michael Hatch and Kirk Bachman joined Dennis, Darby, Ed, Jayce, Po along with support from Clark who hauled the provisions for the first 3 days. We got the compass out to find the shaded slopes where the powder stashes were…otherwise it was beautiful Springlike weather for touring.

The crew soon realized the extent of our varied weather of the winter 2008-09 to find old avalanche crowns from the New Year storms and wind hammered snow in the high alpine. Turns ranged fron wind packed and edgy, transitioning thru breakable and “step-turns” to where there were some hidden rollers with powder between upper and lower Marshall Lake. The crew handled the terrain well, linking fall-lines with route-finding to connect the stashes.

We ended each day back at the yurt with appetizers and the required accompanied refreshments followed by dinner, cards, and conversation. Whose Ipod was it anyway providing the beat?!

Wednesday brought in ‘Kirk the doc’ and ‘Jeff the bush pilot’ along with ‘Joe the BC Skier’ with a second sled and Clark ‘coolio’ for the day. Soon there was a Mexican Fiesta and the required Margaritas…Ole ! and plans to tour to the Goat Creek basin and summit Thompson Peak!

Thursday brought out a long adventurous day with every kind of ski condition over 3,500ft–wind buff on edges, snow climbing and some awesome powder stashes on the way down. Farewell to Po and Darby, hello to a day in the alpine!!

An evening game of ‘Oh Hell’ followed by some excellent gourmet cookin’ from Hatch and Joe brought on the night and the some light snow overnight. With the standard early wake-up to alpine al’s cowboy coffee and huevos and bacon…we’re off for a final climb to ski from Jerry Garcia @ 9,000ft and the Tortilla Steeps for some powder stash huntin’. The remaining crew each slayed a great run of steep re-cycled powder. Followed up with a light lunch before heading out down the Fishhook ridge and down thru the bobsled run to the valley.

Great trip with the Dennis’ Boise gang of 7, Joe , KB, Hatch….Let’s do it again in a powder storm!

-Kirk

AIARE Avalanche Level 1

February 4, 2009

This year SMG teamed up with AIARE to incorporate material into our curriculum.  Last year Kirk and Hatch went to Colorado to attend an ITC (instructor training course) and ever since Kirk has been in contact with AIARE on getting set up with them.  This December I took the ITC here in Stanley ran by Ben Pritchet and Brian Lazar, both from AIARE down in Colorado.

Last weekend we had our first AIARE level 1 course here in Stanley.  It involved combining our material with a new format and info.  We also had a new venue, which turned our really well.  The course was held at the Trillium Coffee house in ‘downtown’ Stanley which gave the course the authentic, rustic Stanley feel.  Jamie (owner) and Sean provided a great breakfast and coffee every morning.

Lectures and morning meetings were held in Stanley, and after drinking plenty of coffee, we did our field sessions at Galena Pass and Banner Summit.  At Galena we did our snowpit studies which included hand hardness, profiles, stability tests and general observations.  At Banner summit we did our tour day which introduced terrain management while incorporating just about everything else we had covered into a practical field setting.

Everyone enjoyed the course and we were psyched to have a new spin on courses based out of town.  We even got one of our classic Stanley inversions which was -30 on the last morning so everyone got a full taste of Sawtooth Valley living!  This was our last Level 1 but next year the format will be the same.