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Snow and avalanche 2017/18

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primoz wrote:
I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that,


It's a bleak topic but with the exception of devastating traumatic injury, it's rare to pronounce death on scene. The common phrase is that no one is dead until they're warm and dead. It's also widely reported that the number of deaths on the mountain has reduced for this reason, the assessment is deferred to ALS provider.

The revised ICAR (International Commission for Alpine Rescue) protocol reflects this, it's a little technical but the CPR/BLS (basic life support) intervention guidelines reflect an increased confidence in hospital (or even heli) provided ALS (advanced life support) which manifests as lower core temperatures and increased burial times for interventions.
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Had the fright of my life this morning when there were several large bangs (sounded like cannon fire) here in obertauern. I assume that was avalanche protection. A poor chap died here in an avalanche December apparently. Certainly brings it home.
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Small avalanche at la tour Chamonix.

http://www.ledauphine.com/haute-savoie/2018/02/13/chamonix-un-pere-et-son-fils-pris-dans-une-petite-avalanche
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There appears to have been a very rare on piste avalanche fatality in Gavarnie on Tuesday. A small avalanche crossed a red piste and a 19 year old was found under the debris after 4 hours of searching by the rescue services. Investigation is underway but we probably won't hear much unless there is a court case.

I'd taken a week off to ski this week but have been laid up in bed with flu, but there seem to have been some nice conditions although high altitude rain is forecast for today, so end of powder below 2000m for us.
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primoz wrote:
I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that.

UK ski instructors have to do a First Aid course every three years, these are often run by official Mountain Rescue people. I have been told that they can pronounce someone dead if the body is in multiple pieces, otherwise it is as ise wrote - "keep trying until they are warmed up at the hospital".
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Care needed in the Pyrenees at the moment. Several incidents over the last couple of days.

https://france3-regions.blog.francetvinfo.fr/pyrenees/2018/02/15/dans-les-pyrenees-le-risque-davalanche-est-fort-sur-lariege-et-la-haute-garonne.html
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Quote:

I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that

From a first aid course with an emphasis on expeditions, the two scenarios were 'injuries incompatible with life' or 'prolonged absence of vital signs'. In the alps, with potential heli rescue possible within at most a few hours, you probably wouldn't declare the latter on the mountain.
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viv wrote:
Quote:

I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that

From a first aid course with an emphasis on expeditions, the two scenarios were 'injuries incompatible with life' or 'prolonged absence of vital signs'. In the alps, with potential heli rescue possible within at most a few hours, you probably wouldn't declare the latter on the mountain.


That's the decision criteria to commence CPR most likely. Death is not typically pronounced (in the absence of obvious trauma) because it's extremely difficult to determine that there are no vital signs and advanced re-warming and ALS can be effective.

rjs wrote:
primoz wrote:
I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that.

UK ski instructors have to do a First Aid course every three years, these are often run by official Mountain Rescue people. I have been told that they can pronounce someone dead if the body is in multiple pieces, otherwise it is as ise wrote - "keep trying until they are warmed up at the hospital".


Only medically qualified persons can pronounce death and record it. That won't include first aiders or SAR (other than doctors). They may take a decision to suspend treatment or not prolong it.
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mortonia wrote:
Care needed in the Pyrenees at the moment. Several incidents over the last couple of days.

https://france3-regions.blog.francetvinfo.fr/pyrenees/2018/02/15/dans-les-pyrenees-le-risque-davalanche-est-fort-sur-lariege-et-la-haute-garonne.html


BBC reporting a further three deaths, in Cauterets: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43074380
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ecureuil wrote:
BBC reporting a further three deaths, in Cauterets: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43074380


'Reporting' somewhat overstates what the BBC did there rolling eyes
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Two Americans caught in a slide in Galtur today

http://www.tt.com/panorama/unfall/14023037-91/zwei-amerikaner-in-galtür-von-lawine-erfasst-und-geborgen.csp
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There was 2 avalanches in bansko on Wednesday
http://www.novinite.com/articles/187925/Snowboarder+Rescued+after+Avalanche+in+Bansko

2nd avalanche was quite small & caught 2 people, but they managed to stay surfaced & not get buried
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Ten hikers 'swept away' by avalanche in Switzerland
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Saw a note saying father and daughter killed in VDI today on a closed piste.
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@orange, closed because of avalanche risk. I mean, sad, but these restrictions are not put in place without good reason.
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Alastair wrote:
Ten hikers 'swept away' by avalanche in Switzerland


Sky News reporting the number of people missing has been dropped from 10 to 2.
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http://www.ledauphine.com/savoie/2018/02/18/val-d-isere-une-avalanche-dans-le-secteur-du-pisaillas

2 dead in Val d'Isere today, Father and 11 year old Daughter, skiing a closed run on Pisaillas.
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Alastair wrote:

Sky News reporting the number of people missing has been dropped from 10 to 2.

Looks like good news, they've found them and they're not seriously hurt:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43104323
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1 dead in Pirin Mountains - not Bansko resort itself
http://www.novinite.com/articles/188034/Avalanche+Killed+a+Young+Woman+in+Pirin
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Spent the day at Rellerli (Gstaad) the amount of fresh avalanche activity was striking. Very easy to see how folk could get into trouble on what appeared to be fairly benign terrain. I'm not sure what process had created the instability.
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Major storm cycle in the Pyrenees at the moment with over a meter of snow at altitude. Risk is back up to 5 tomorrow (principally natural avalanches, High risk of skier triggered avalanches) in a number of ranges with infrastructure at risk.
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Rogerdodger wrote:
Spent the day at Rellerli (Gstaad) the amount of fresh avalanche activity was striking. Very easy to see how folk could get into trouble on what appeared to be fairly benign terrain. I'm not sure what process had created the instability.


I don't know the situation in Gstaad but in the French Alps there was high altitude rain and fresh snow followed by a thaw over the weekend then sun on Sunday and this led to a lot of natural avalanche activity. I don't know the cause of the Val d'Isere slide - but the fact that the piste was closed and not due to lack of snow - shows that it was a risky prospect. These natural slides can occur on quite shallow terrain, compared to skier triggered slides but the danger is limited in scope: both in time and geography, so easier to avoid. If you do get caught in a wet natural slide they are apparently very hard to escape from... and they don't care if you have an airbag or not.
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davidof wrote:
I don't know the cause of the Val d'Isere slide - but the fact that the piste was closed and not due to lack of snow - shows that it was a risky prospect. These natural slides can occur on quite shallow terrain, compared to skier triggered slides but the danger is limited in scope: both in time and geography, so easier to avoid. If you do get caught in a wet natural slide they are apparently very hard to escape from... and they don't care if you have an airbag or not.


The Val slide was from the cliffs above the piste. This gets loaded up especially in any retour de l'est and when it goes, it falls some distance, then slides out across the piste. You can see the area if you pan right a bit on the Pisaillas web cam.
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Today above Grindelwald all north facing slopes showing lots of slides. Nothing of any depth but enough debris to cause a fright where it accumulates in a gulley. The fresh, and slightly wind blown, appears to be very poorly bonded to the surface below.
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It was avalanche city in the Pyrenees last week after the rain fell on top of copious quantities of fresh snow, bringing everything down in a wet sloppy mess. Sadly there were several in-resort deaths in the western French Pyrenees... it really wasn't the time for "recreational" off piste, I feel. As davidof just mentioned, the endless purges happened at even a very modest steepness, which surprised me; I don't think I've seen that to such an extent before.

Still, this season doesn't give us much time to dwell on anything, since the new storm cycle has indeed brought with it almost a metre of fresh snow and the chequered flag is raised high... which brings us to the next few days, which might just turn out to give us the weekend of the season! Very low temperatures, low or negligeable wind, and - though we barely remember what it looks like - several consecutive days of sun. Many resorts have had top lifts closed for several days, tomorrow looks pretty mixed and will hopefully give a chance for the new snow to settle a little bit, and then with luck we can get out and enjoy it.... all eyes will be glued to the 8am bulletins.
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I've been out and about a fair amount this past week or so with a couple of guides, some big days, big ascents in good terrain and I've seen a lot of activity as one does when you get high.

However on Thursday again I had a close shave.

We'd been up to the Tête de la Petite Part at around 3,100 up from Ceillac which does unfortunately have quite a tragic history these past couple of years.

Climbing up was tough with a varied snow pack and numerous kick turns before boot packing for one section and then back to skinning when it leveled off.

On the descent close to where we boot packed both guides were seriously evaluating the terrain as they were concerned about the possibility of a wind slab. One guide then skied a line with the other telling us to ski to the right of that track.

Think I was the fourth or so to go down and was pretty steep, as I did one turn so a whole section started to slide in front of me as I came to an immediate halt which saw the snow sliding over my ski tips and for a few seconds I had visions of being swept down if more gave way, not at all pleasant.

At the end it was all quite innocuous however that's how it seemed last year when I was caught in a big one, started off as sluff then the whole lot gave way. I was quite shaken at the thought of it and took a while for me to calm down.

But just goes to show, was with two guides who were being ever so cautious.

Yesterday we were skiing without the guides and it was 4 with around 50 - 70 of fresh - and was so deep that you needed a steep gradient to get going however that then put you in the Catch 22 so we stayed well clear of the usual routes and faces but even on the ungroomed piste it seemed to be very slabby.

And today we just didn't bother as it seemed to be warming up quickly.
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Pyremaniac wrote:
It was avalanche city in the Pyrenees last week


Quite a spate of avalanches over the last few days as you say. In the Pyrenees a skier was injured on the Pic du Midi

https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2018/02/25/2749002-avalanche-secteur-pic-midi-hautes-pyrenees.html

In the Beaufortain, a group of three skiers had a lucky escape after triggering a slab as the lead skier approached the ridgeline - probably windslab formed by the strong northerly winds over the last few days

http://www.ledauphine.com/savoie/2018/02/24/beaufort-trois-randonneurs-a-ski-emportes-par-une-avalanche-deux-blesses-legers

Injuries were relatively minor - a cut nose needing stitches and a broken elbow for the second skier. Also an avalanche in the North Belledonne at the refuge d'Oule, one skier partially buried and injured needing hospitalization. The specific sector is notorious for wind-slab.

In the Valais another skier was not so lucky, part of a group of 4 they were caught in the couloirs de l'Aiguille du Tsa.

https://www.rts.ch/info/regions/valais/9362488-quatre-personnes-blessees-dans-une-avalanche-a-arolla-en-valais.html

and another fatality at Gstaad

https://www.rts.ch/info/regions/berne/9364176-un-homme-emporte-par-une-avalanche-pres-de-gstaad-be-est-decede.html

Lots of ski tourers caught this season (as opposed to off piste skiers) and a lot of people climbing when they are caught. Group spacing is a takeout from a lot of these incidents although easier said than put into practise.

The mother of the family that was caught at Val d'Isere on a closed piste has spoken to the press. She escaped the slide that killed her 11 year old daughter and husband. She says she didn't see that the piste was closed - the director of piste security doesn't understand how the group missed the signs. Police are investigating, it would be interesting to know what happened in this case, is there a problem with people tracking out the area so people think they are on piste when they are not?

Snow hitting the Southern Alps today, avalanche risk is 4 (HIGH) in the far east of the Hautes-Alpes. The retour d'Est has brought 80 cm of fresh to the frontier, hardly a flake has fallen further west.
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& Château d’Oex, on the south probably from L'Etivaz

https://www.vd.ch/autorites/departements/dis/police-cantonale/medias/communiques-de-presse/news/chateau-doex-accident-mortel-en-montagne-1519580461/
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davidof wrote:
.......Snow hitting the Southern Alps today, avalanche risk is 4 (HIGH) in the far east of the Hautes-Alpes. The retour d'Est has brought 80 cm of fresh to the frontier, hardly a flake has fallen further west.


The major "dump" of the latest Retour d'Est was over the weekend with Saturday seeing the heaviest snow fall and today looking at the cams it's quite sunny.

Like I said in my post above conditions were challenging over the weekend.

Should be good down there after a couple of days of consolidation and the overnight cloudless skies should suck a lot of the moisture out, well at least that's what a Swiss Guide who was staying where we were was hoping for the rest of his week there.

Have to say I'm looking forward to some Spring touring but looks like more fresh Wed Pm onwards.
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Weathercam wrote:


Have to say I'm looking forward to some Spring touring but looks like more fresh Wed Pm onwards.


Every day for a week according to the various sites Very Happy
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KenX wrote:
Weathercam wrote:


Have to say I'm looking forward to some Spring touring but looks like more fresh Wed Pm onwards.


Every day for a week according to the various sites Very Happy


Rain to 2000m+ around here unfortunately. From Thursday foehn and spring temperatures and a week of high altitude rain.

Another avalanche under the Pic du Midi, this time a Spanish skier caught on piste (video)

https://fr.news.yahoo.com/un-skieur-fonce-dans-une-161728843.html

Another Spanish skier injured in a 500 meter fall in the Poubelle couloir on the Pic du Midi, he suffered concussion but nothing serious, he was in a "confused state" when found by the rescue services, a reminder that the snow is very hard and icy in places at the moment and there have been a lot of falls both on and off piste.

https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2018/02/26/2749461-pic-du-midi-un-skieur-devisse-sur-500-metres.html
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@davidof, come over and have a ski with me and @KenX, mind you will not be good on the roads this weekend, best to wait after the holidays and do some groovy Spring touring.
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davidof wrote:

Another avalanche under the Pic du Midi, this time a Spanish skier caught on piste (video)
https://fr.news.yahoo.com/un-skieur-fonce-dans-une-161728843.html

Not Pic du Midi; that's Baqueira from almost two weeks ago during the manic avalanche period. Fortunately it was only the "cloud" that reached as far as the piste. Here is Baqueira's understated acknowledgement of the event, which presumably they felt the need to release after the video started doing the rounds: https://m.facebook.com/BaqueiraBeretEsqui/posts/1623914687695755

As for the conditions in the Pyrenees right now: today was the last day of stable sunny weather (all the while it was snowing down to sea level in Barcelona and causing havoc again across much of Spain as the first lashes of the Beast from the East reached the Iberian peninsula as a westerly/southerly due to its anticlockwise rotation as it whirls out over the Atlantic). Looks horribly unsettled with yo-yo temperatures and hence a mixture of heavy snow and heavy rain for the next couple of weeks. Last weekend will surely be viewed as the best of the season.
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Pyremaniac wrote:
davidof wrote:

Another avalanche under the Pic du Midi, this time a Spanish skier caught on piste (video)
https://fr.news.yahoo.com/un-skieur-fonce-dans-une-161728843.html

Not Pic du Midi; that's Baqueira from almost two weeks ago during the manic avalanche period.


Thanks for the correction
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Weathercam wrote:
@davidof, come over and have a ski with me and @KenX, mind you will not be good on the roads this weekend, best to wait after the holidays and do some groovy Spring touring.


Hi thanks for the offer, I'll keep an eye out to see what these storms bring in terms of snow / rain.
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Quote:

Have to say I'm looking forward to some Spring touring but looks like more fresh Wed Pm onwards.



By the way - what is the thinking on what spring conditions will mean for the current snow pack. Obviously we could get a lot more snow which would change things but is there a risk that the big high altitude snowpack is going to represent a serious avalanche hazard into the ski touring season?

Hoping to ski the Aiguille d'Argentiere at Easter and wondering a bit if our plans might need watering down a little.
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I guess the big snowpack increases the probability of giant purges that bury villages or destroy roads. But the ones from normal or low snowpacks are generally sufficent to kill or seriously injure ski tourers who are foolish (or sometimes just unlikely) to be caught in springtime by one of them.

In recent years the key problem for spring touring in the Alps has been persistent _moisture_ . . . which prevents the clear night sky needed for a good re-freeze of the snowpack - (also lack of sunshine and well-defined shadows that make downhill turning and riding more fun).

Ken
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@jedster, pretty well as @kenr, says - you just have to watch the isotherm carefull.

If FL is above 3,500 then you going to get a lot of big purges that @kenr, mentions.n

Few years back when FL's were around that level a good guide friend said simply, "next two days don't go out touring", that's also when they open up some of the tunnels as concern is that big slides will come down over the road maybe taking cars out.

A good prolonged period of freeze / thaw will stabilise the snow pack. But golden rule start early on the climbs and be back down for lunch unless you're doing late season NW/N aspects.
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A ski instructor was killed off-piste by an avalanche this afternoon in the western Spanish Pyrenean resort of Formigal Sad

https://www.nevasport.com/noticias/art/40323/profesor-esqui-fallece-formigal-por-alud/

There is currently no further information in the article other than it was in the Tres Hombres sector which is the more interesting part of the resort in terms of in-bounds off-piste. Weather-wise, it was a mixture of snow and rain all day.

[Aside: the resorts of Formigal and Panticosa - now linked by a skibus - were apparently rather well known decades ago amongst foreign skiers, but seemed to go out of favour. They remain part of an ever-discussed, never-materializing, and highly unlikely plan to connect 4 of the 5 Pyrenean resorts in Aragon into a megaresort of international scale: the "Aragon Ski Circus" ( http://www.valledelaragon.com/aragonskicircus.htm )]
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Weird here, 50cm in the garden, nothing on the roofs, been windy and very cold for 24hrs and no snowflakes, just particles swirling, no cohesion, probably dangerous.......
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