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Snow and avalanche 2017/18

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Poster: A snowHead
and at la Plagne

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Here is the French January temperature figures



warmest January since records began, in case anyone thought global warming was history. That's meant a lot of rain below 2000m, which is good and bad.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
A rare avalanche fatality in the Vosges mountains yesterday. Solo experienced local skier killed after being suffocated against a tree after triggering a wet snow slide in a steep couloir. It is not the first avalanche in this couloir.
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these are some fairly low angles meadows at Pila on Thursday. Well away from the controlled area. It’s not big at all with maybe a 6”-9” crown but it did make me think because of the low angle and the fact they looked spontaneous.
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@jbob, I've found some spooky stuff in the valley the last week or so. The buried surface hoar layer seems persistent.

Also saw this:


Stability testing with a skidoo Wink
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This was last week, in the car park behind my appt in La Daille. It's just beyond the bottom of the Trifiolet piste.

It serves to show how what looks like a minor depth of slip can deliver a life ending amount of snow.
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@AndAnotherThing.., Its an American pass time called High-marking, which as shown, involves driving 400kg of sledge as high up a slope as you can, ideally without killing yourself.
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bar shaker wrote:

This was last week, in the car park behind my appt in La Daille. It's just beyond the bottom of the Trifiolet piste.

It serves to show how what looks like a minor depth of slip can deliver a life ending amount of snow.


Nice. Natural humid snow slide, very hard to get out of once caught and they are like a bulldozer. My assumption here is the debris isn't that deep but even a small slide like that can brake legs.
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I notice that the Meteo France avalanche bulletin issued today afternoon 5 Feb has raised the hazard level to 3 for higher elevations on N + W aspects for all the mountain groups in department 73 Savoie.

My memory was that they rated it risk level 2 for the first couple of days after the most recent storm, which came with little wind. Interesting because usually I expect that the risk will tend to go lower in the days following a storm. But ...

Looking at the detailed explanation for the massif Haute Maurienne, seems like since then there have been some strong winds from the SouthEast (like from Italy), so it's blown the snow around and formed some thick slabs. Mention of a release 40 cm deep (which is more than the original snowfall amount).

Ken

P.S. It's been difficult for me to _find_ the MeteoFrance detailed avalanche reports for each massif under the department of Savoie. With the Web version of Meteo France, I don't see any link from the Savoie overview page to the individual massif pages (maybe it's different with the MF phone apps?). Anyway somehow Google web search can find the massif-specific pages on the Web -- but I'd glad if someone would tell me where there are links on the MF website.
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@kenr,

http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches/

http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches/savoie/avdept73
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Yes those are the visible links on www.MeteoFrance.com to the _overview_ avalanche report for department 73 Savoie.

my question is . . .
Where is the visible link on MF.com to the specific detail page for the massif Haute Maurienne?
... like ...
http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches/haute-maurienne/OPP11

. . (That's where the MF expert actually explains why the risk level has been raised to 3, and gives details of the new hazard).

If I search on Google, Google can find that Haute Maurienne page. But last year MF had visible links to pages like that (and it just make sense they should be shown somewhere).

Ken
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I go here:
http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches/savoie/avdept73
and then just click into the area and the detailed area report appears.

The recent fohn wind from the SE is the main culprit causing the increase in the risk
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Reports in Le Dauphine of 4 tourers avalanched yesterday evening (no detail on injuries). I think it says on the Foglietta in the text that fades behind the paywall.@davidof, do you subscribe??
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chocksaway wrote:
I go here:
http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches/savoie/avdept73
and then just click into the area and the detailed area report appears.


Yes thanks -- that's the secret.

I was trying to click on the rectangular text box for each specific massif -- instead of the irregularly-shaped region on the underlying map.
How foolish of me.
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kenr wrote:


Looking at the detailed explanation for the massif Haute Maurienne, seems like since then there have been some strong winds from the SouthEast (like from Italy), so it's blown the snow around and formed some thick slabs. Mention of a release 40 cm deep (which is more than the original snowfall amount).


There's been a bit of a foehn over the last days. Blowing up the Rhone valley too. Underneath things are pretty stable.

A lot of fresh snow in parts of the Pyrenees coupled with high winds over the last days though with the risk again up at 3 there.

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chocksaway wrote:
Reports in Le Dauphine of 4 tourers avalanched yesterday evening (no detail on injuries). I think it says on the Foglietta in the text that fades behind the paywall.@davidof, do you subscribe??


are you sure that isn't an old news?

Plenty of accidents with people falling on very icy snow at the moment, particuarly icy covered with a few cm of powder.
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[quote="davidof"]
chocksaway wrote:
Plenty of accidents with people falling on very icy snow at the moment, particuarly icy covered with a few cm of powder.

Thanks for the reminder that there's more to worry about out there than just avalanches.

Have to take into account in where to try for touring tomorrow (and what equipment to bring).

Today I made the decision to leave my couteaux in the car, then discovered that it was not only at higher elevations that the snow had been eroded by the wind.

Cut my tour short, carefully negotated the transitions on descent between hard hardpack and breakable crust -- still nice to be out on an (unexpectedly) sunny day, explored a new start and new finish to a favorite tour.

Ken
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@davidof, Just checked; it says yesterday at 1740. Sadly a pisteur was killed in La Clusaz whilst on a rando tour today.
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chocksaway wrote:
@davidof, Just checked; it says yesterday at 1740.


ah right but no big deal from what I can see?
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Father skiing with his son and a friend died from injuries following an avalanche last friday at Nassfeld Austria.
http://www.kleinezeitung.at/kaernten/5365046/Kaernten_Toter-nach-Lawinenabgang-auf-dem-Nassfeld

Skitourer from Leoben, Austria last Sunday, partial burial up to his hips, saved by his Airbag and the emergency services. Altitude =2000m.
https://www.leobennews.at/2018/02/05/schitourengeher-von-lawine-teilverschuettet/

I was skitouring approx 80 miles away on the same day but didn't go above 1700m as the avi Level was 3 higher up. Dont understand why he went to 2000m especially as he was on his own.
The emergency services had to get/dig him out, I assume he rang them on his phone.
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Unexpectedly after the warnings about sliding on hardpack, this morning Wednesday I found myself skiing 30 cm of soft snow in 40-degree gullies at a French family ski station. I arrived after the the lifts opened ready to go out touring (with couteaux and crampons and pole-grip self-arrests in my backpack).

Finally convinced myself that might be untracked soft snow, so purchased a lift ticket, and so it was. I guess some combination of snow blown (from somewhere) into the steep basin and gullies by the wind, with some new fresh snow (not much predicted). After an hour or so some skiers did venture into the moderate off-piste . . . but since it was a "family" station, I had almost no competition for the steep gullies.

Finally stopped because my muscles were sore. Never did find any hardpack, tho I suppose it was good training to carry the weight of the sharp tools.

Need to be ready for anything in France.

Ken

P.S. Just checked this afternoon's updated avalanche report: Not only was this soft snow little-forecasted . . . even after the fact it went un-measured in the daily snowfall history. So I guess it was mostly wind-deposited? - (pretty nice + fluffy for that).
Or I was just skiing my imagination.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Wed 7-02-18 15:17; edited 1 time in total
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kenr wrote:


Today I made the decision to leave my couteaux in the car


I never make a conscious decision to leave them, I do however sometimes forget to take them.........
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KenX wrote:
kenr wrote:


Today I made the decision to leave my couteaux in the car


I never make a conscious decision to leave them, I do however sometimes forget to take them.........


I have a "competition" rucksack where couteaux and crampons live in the bottom section all the time. A nice chunk of space and weight to lug around 99% of the time. I could have done with the couteaux on Sunday on the 10-15cm of powder on ice but it was only a short section to tackle, I was more worried about the windblown snow and the risk of a small avy taking me down into the trees.
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@davidof, @chocksaway, The pisteur killed near La Clusaz yesterday was Jo Thovex. He and a friend were ascending one of the extremely steep gullies on the southwest face of Etale when he was hit by a corniche break away and swept to the bottom. The emergency helicopter was scrambled but there was nothing they could do. They had a minute's silence for him at the La Balme cafe we were in today. Very sad.
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A very experienced skier, like nearly all the deaths this winter.

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Yes, more details here...

https://penteraide.com/jardins-suspendus-blonniere-ski-2/

Paul Bonhomme's Gopro footage from the previous week I find terrifying....


http://youtube.com/v/TMCVzFEx4Vs
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Looks like after a long hike and climb, he got to the top and wished he hadn't.............
Fantastic footage though Very Happy
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gvj wrote:
Yes, more details here...

https://penteraide.com/jardins-suspendus-blonniere-ski-2/

Paul Bonhomme's Gopro footage from the previous week I find terrifying....


http://youtube.com/v/TMCVzFEx4Vs


Why would you climb all the way up there, to side slip down in conditions where the slightest mistake would cost your life?

Am I missing something?
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[quote="bar shaker"]
gvj wrote:
Yes, more details here...

.........

Why would you climb all the way up there, to side slip down in conditions where the slightest mistake would cost your life?

Am I missing something?


I was just thinking how fun that looked... Admittedly I'm not overly fussed about super steep lines and hate sketchy traverses but the ski down looks good!
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bar shaker wrote:

Why would you climb all the way up there, to side slip down in conditions where the slightest mistake would cost your life?

Am I missing something?


I rarely ski in "you fall, you die" zones and certainly not long pitches. Just the psychological aspects don't make it enjoyable to me but if you are sure to land every turn I guess it is an adventure. If I undertand correctly Jo Thovex was killed by corniche debris hitting him (like the late, lamented Edouard Baud) not by a skiing error. The route is rated 5.5 E4 which is as far out there as you can get really, in bad snow it must have been squeaky bum time. I don't think even Simon Christy (offpisteskiing) is skiing 5.5 routes on a regular basis.

https://penteraide.com/jardins-suspendus-blonniere-ski-2/
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Yes. As link implies, Les Jardins is a route extreme steep skiers want to tick off. It was first done by Pierre Tardivel back in the 1980s. Trouble is there's rarely enough snow on it for it to be feasable, I think Thovex's ascent would have only been the third known this winter and in recent times it's often been unfeasable all season. The mountain in question is visible on the south side of the Col des Aravis.
@davidof, is right, the skier was unlucky, his friend was unscathed.
I think the majority of skiers, even ski tourers, would have difficulty comprehending what drives these guys to extreme places. On the other hand, I know rock climbers and alpinists who would empathise completely.
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I'm more into the skiing side of things rather than billy goating down extreme routes a la Tardivel - erm not that I would ski anything above 5.1 or maybe 5.2 in good snow and certainly not E4 stuff (that said, some of the freeriders don't even billy goat).

Just to put the "no fall" into context. I don't remember when I last fell over either on or off piste skiing so I'm reasonably ok with the concept. Of course some people would say if you don't fall you are not trying hard enough Happy
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DB wrote:
Father skiing with his son and a friend died from injuries following an avalanche last friday at Nassfeld Austria.
http://www.kleinezeitung.at/kaernten/5365046/Kaernten_Toter-nach-Lawinenabgang-auf-dem-Nassfeld

I was there, having great day in deep pow, but conditions were super tricky and you needed to ski very defensive and not push things. But main point is, this death was really something that could be avoidable. I'm not going into their decision where to ski, as anyone can make mistake or bad decision, but more to knowledge people have when heading out. I was one of two, who located this guy and get him out, unfortunately hour too late (I came to place of avi about 45-50min after avi went down). When I came there, there was some 10 people already there, probing and digging holes randomly (some 50+m higher then guy was actually buried). There was no system where to search, and what's more important, noone even went down the avi path to check if he could find some signal from this guy's transciever. They all relied to someone's info that buried person had old/badly working transciever, and there's no signal. Once me and one guy probing next to me finally got info noone went to check down, we went and some 15 or 20m lower, we got first signal and less then 5min later buried person was out... just as I wrote, unfortunately hour too late.
So I would ask everyone who heads out, have at least some basic training, read manuals that come with avi gear, and learn how to use it. One day, this might save life of your friend, loved ones or just some random guy out there.
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@primoz, sounds like a really terrible experience but thanks for sharing it, I’ll certainly keep it in mind.
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Interesting account of a pisteur from les Abries caught by an avalanche last year (I mentioned this at the time on Snowheads). Don't read if you are squeamish.

In uneven terrain: cliffs, rocks, trees, couloirs on upper risk days (high risk 3, risk 4) where large avalanches are likely an airbag can easily be overpowered and shouldn't encourage you to ski at risk lines.

original link: http://www.skipass.com/news/158743-recit-d-avalanche-abries-2017.html

via Google translate

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.skipass.com%2Fnews%2F158743-recit-d-avalanche-abries-2017.html&edit-text=
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primoz wrote:
DB wrote:
Father skiing with his son and a friend died from injuries following an avalanche last friday at Nassfeld Austria.
http://www.kleinezeitung.at/kaernten/5365046/Kaernten_Toter-nach-Lawinenabgang-auf-dem-Nassfeld

I was there, having great day in deep pow, but conditions were super tricky and you needed to ski very defensive and not push things. But main point is, this death was really something that could be avoidable. I'm not going into their decision where to ski, as anyone can make mistake or bad decision, but more to knowledge people have when heading out. I was one of two, who located this guy and get him out, unfortunately hour too late (I came to place of avi about 45-50min after avi went down). When I came there, there was some 10 people already there, probing and digging holes randomly (some 50+m higher then guy was actually buried). There was no system where to search, and what's more important, noone even went down the avi path to check if he could find some signal from this guy's transciever. They all relied to someone's info that buried person had old/badly working transciever, and there's no signal. Once me and one guy probing next to me finally got info noone went to check down, we went and some 15 or 20m lower, we got first signal and less then 5min later buried person was out... just as I wrote, unfortunately hour too late.
So I would ask everyone who heads out, have at least some basic training, read manuals that come with avi gear, and learn how to use it. One day, this might save life of your friend, loved ones or just some random guy out there.



Horrible experience for you but well done for your efforts.
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@davidof, that is truly horrific. I can't imagine what his rescuers must have thought when they dug him out. I have to admit that since losing a very experienced friend to an avalanche in 2015 I have become very skeptical about the whole subject. Truth seems to be that you can not really make predictions about which slope will or will not slide, even if you do follow all accepted procedures. This guy felt very sure about what he was doing, but it simply didn't work for him on that day.
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primoz wrote:
DB wrote:
Father skiing with his son and a friend died from injuries following an avalanche last friday at Nassfeld Austria.
http://www.kleinezeitung.at/kaernten/5365046/Kaernten_Toter-nach-Lawinenabgang-auf-dem-Nassfeld

I was there, having great day in deep pow, but conditions were super tricky and you needed to ski very defensive and not push things. But main point is, this death was really something that could be avoidable. I'm not going into their decision where to ski, as anyone can make mistake or bad decision, but more to knowledge people have when heading out. I was one of two, who located this guy and get him out, unfortunately hour too late (I came to place of avi about 45-50min after avi went down). When I came there, there was some 10 people already there, probing and digging holes randomly (some 50+m higher then guy was actually buried). There was no system where to search, and what's more important, noone even went down the avi path to check if he could find some signal from this guy's transciever. They all relied to someone's info that buried person had old/badly working transciever, and there's no signal. Once me and one guy probing next to me finally got info noone went to check down, we went and some 15 or 20m lower, we got first signal and less then 5min later buried person was out... just as I wrote, unfortunately hour too late.
So I would ask everyone who heads out, have at least some basic training, read manuals that come with avi gear, and learn how to use it. One day, this might save life of your friend, loved ones or just some random guy out there.


Real shame but good on you for finding him.

The news link said he died of his injuries later - was he still alive when you dug him out?

Can't work out where it was in Nassfeld from the pic (not sure if it's an actual pic of the incident) but it looks to be just at the side of the piste.
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Steilhang wrote:
@davidof, that is truly horrific. I can't imagine what his rescuers must have thought when they dug him out. I have to admit that since losing a very experienced friend to an avalanche in 2015 I have become very skeptical about the whole subject. Truth seems to be that you can not really make predictions about which slope will or will not slide, even if you do follow all accepted procedures. This guy felt very sure about what he was doing, but it simply didn't work for him on that day.


He was obviously very informed and would have known the results of the avalanche control throughout the season.
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@DB, it was under Trogkofelbahn gondola, and place where he was found was maybe some 100m higher then track from Rudnigalm comes to black track under Trgokofelbahn. It's a bit of ditch on left side of track, so you don't really see there straight from track, but yeah it was like I don't know maybe 10m off the track.Here's photo from official report:

I don't think poor guy was still alive when we dig him out as I wasn't the one doing CPR. Until now, I had zero experiences with dead people, so I can't say anything for sure, but for me he looked dead when we got him out already. By the time we got him out, there were 2 policemen on location and they got one medic there, so medic was doing that, and I just didn't have any wish to hang around there (contrary to some people on side of track who were happily taking photos with their phones... beats me why anyone would want that), so after I asked one of policeman if they need anything else from me, I just skied away. I have no idea what's procedure on calling someone dead and who can do that, but considering newpapers article has bunch of errors or completely wrong info, I wouldn't trust much about rest of stuff they wrote either.
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