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Mountain safety level 3

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Am signed up to lvl 3 mountain safety in Zermatt in November, any tips on what to take etc?

Is anyone on here going on it?
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Have you got the list of kit needed from BASI? Touring skis, skins, ski crampons, topographic map and a map holder, navigating compass, I used a watch altimeter on my course, avy kit, pack large enough to carry that stuff, perhaps a packed lunch (my course always had a picnic lunch).
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Only but I donít have is crampons but am not sure you need them.... I will have to find out what the lunch situation is
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A good hat. It was -28 up there when I did mine.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
yep got one of them wink

what did you guys re lunch when you were doing the course?
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@ajc2260626, It was a few years ago now, but at the time it was the 'mid station'.

On the ski crampons question, I'd get them assuming you are happy with your current touring set up, otherwise try and borrow some for your current set-up.

On my course we didn't do a huge amount of skinning up but it's going to depend on the guides you are working with. I recall Rob mentioning he did a lot of 'up'.
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i will get some dynafit crampons to fit my skis, not really done any skinning before more boot packing
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AndAnotherThing.. wrote:
I recall Rob mentioning he did a lot of 'up'.
A little bit (30 minutes or so) on two days, plus a about 90 minutes on a third day. Every day we had a bit of a boot-up, and each day finished with a 1km uphill skate on some cross country tracks. Could have done with out that! Snow was great though Happy
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The arrow marked the destination. We had to navigate from where we were to the top of what I think is called Petite Mont Blanc.
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looks like good fun! did you do any practice map reading before you went.... i learnt as a boy in the scouts but not sure how much i will remember
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ajc2260626 wrote:
looks like good fun! did you do any practice map reading before you went.... i learnt as a boy in the scouts but not sure how much i will remember
Not a huge amount. I'd skied Courchevel for quite a few years so the geography was familiar, and I spent a bit of time with the topo map before the course to familiarise myself with it. Prior to that I did the old Common Theory course which had a couple of sessions on navigating, and I'd done a bit as a geology student when on mapping field trips so the basic concepts were buried at the back of my memory.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I did mine in Courchevel rather than Zermatt as I wanted to be somewhere I was familiar with, but that hopefully doesn't matter for your questions.

We had no need of the crampons but only because of the snow conditions (lots of fresh snow). If it had been different snow we would have been expected to have them and be able to use them. If you want to take it further and get some tours logged you will undoubtedly want crampons. They are very much the kind of equipment that you take but perhaps hope you're not going to need to use, and when you do need to use them you don't want to faffing around.

I would add a good rucksack to the list. There is a fair amount of gear to be carting around, including some communal things that the trainer will expect the group to manage between them. I was grateful that the rucksack I had could comfortably have skis strapped to it.

The main things that people struggled with on my course were:
1) Map reading and navigation. For some people this comes easily (fortunately I'm one of them) but for others it needs practice. They will expect you to be able to pinpoint your location on the map and relate the surrounding features to what you can see on the map. E.g. being able to look at the contours on a map and know if it's a ridge or a valley etc. Having a decent map holder so you're not constantly folding it and unfolding it makes this much easier. A lot of this was covered on the old common theory course so I don't know if they've changed mountain safety now the theory course is no more.

2) Using the transceiver and other avalanche equipment. Make sure you have a decent shovel (metal) and probe (long enough to be useful and easy to unfold). Be familiar with using your transceiver. You'll get time to practice but the more you've used it the easier it will be. Again, the practice time we had on the common theory course was useful to me.

3) Fitness. It's not extreme by any means but some on my course (young and old) were at times clearly working hard. If you're wiped out physically by the climb, you're perhaps not going to be able to think as clearly to read the map, pick a route etc when you get to the top.

4) Kick turns. If you can practice kick turns while climbing before you go, even if it's just on grass to work out the movements, you'll be more comfortable when you have to do it for real.

The first two above are what I think they are most interested in, along with your choice of routes for a safe descent and reasons to justify your choices. If you know where you are, can pick a safe route, and can find the buried transceiver confidently you'll be fine.

It's a really nice course in many respects, especially for someone like me who had almost zero off-piste experience beforehand, as you are being trained by mountain guides and so they don't care what your skiing looks like as long as it works.

Lunchwise I just took a filled baguette, snacks, water, etc in my rucksack. Some days we'd eat in some spectacular places away from the crowds, other days we'd be in a cafe.

Many modern mobile phones will have an altimeter built in and there are apps to use it and combine it with GPS and map data and sync it with reference points. It's a useful check when pinpointing your location as if you're not on the right contour line you've probably made a mistake, but be careful your battery will survive a day in the cold if you're going to rely on it.

You could also read up a bit on snow and avalanches beforehand so that the things they're telling you are familiar rather than new.
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@kieranm, cheers mate, i think that we are good on the kit front and i will do some kick turns in the garden and like you say do a bit of reading before hand

i will check the phone app as that might save me forking £200 out on one...
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You know it makes sense.
2010 - early spring on the col de la Chaux. I am stood on the col waiting for Swirly to put his splitboard back together. It is a beautiful day in the Swiss Alps, the visibility is perfect and we are headed up over the shoulder of the Rosablanche, down towards the Dix barrage and are then going to get the bus back from Pralong. If we're quick there will be time for a pint in the hotel by the bus stop. I am carrying an absurd amount of ironmongery for what is, basically, a glaciated stroll.

The Scottish guide next to me asks me the route we are taking and commiserates regarding my choice of touring partner and his splitboard. I say little at this point as while Swirly can't put the thing back together for poo-poo, he's actually pretty quick when he gets going. I explain that we're expecting good spring snow on the way down to the Prafleuri but we need to get a move on or the pint in Pralong isn't going to happen. He says that he's doing a BASI mountain safety course and that these guys are all ski instructors. He says that he's headed up over the Louvie and then lowers his voice and adds "if we can fucking find it". I go poker faced. He then gently suggested to his charges that they should look at the map and work out where they are going rather than "imagine it". I got the impression it was going to be a long day.

The point of this story is not to point out that Swirly and I were awesome and these guys weren't. That wasn't the case at all - they would have skied circles round me. But we did know where we were going and they didn't. If the boy scouts was a long time ago then a map reading refresher is probably a good idea.
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@gorilla, yep i will be doing a bit before we go...... there's a guy over the road who does a lot of hill walking etc so will do a bit with him
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@gorilla, that sounds like the BASI mountain guide was Cube (thatís his nickname, usually based on Chamonix). He was my assessor for the final two days of my course. Interesting character.

The two guys who failed my course were the hotshot skiers. Didnít know how to hold a map so it pointed north, which is why they failed. That plus failing their avalanche search.
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my nine year old can use a map and compass Wink
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I did a bit of orienteering so I am sure it will come back to me
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Maybe I expect too much but surely someone going for their level three has been touring before, can read a map, understands snow, can use a transceiver, do a search?

It all seems such basic stuff (snow knowledge excepted as it's actually a complicated subject that a little knowledge can be very dangerous).
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@galpinos, personally i have done quite a bit of off piste skiing, so i do know a bit about snow, have done some rope work, can abseil, use my bleep etc etc but remember this is a course that people who would like to become ski instructors follow as a path to that end, so in theory they my not have done anything like this in the past?

i am guessing that the whole point of the course is that it gives them the basics to allow them to do more of this and to lay a foundation for the future.... personally for me i am doing it to get a professional perspective on what i can already do and maybe to improve the skills that i already have (my aim is not to become a ski instructor) Very Happy
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@galpinos, I would think of the L3 courses as being in two groups - those that mark the end of the process and those that can be done at the beginning. The Mountain Safety and Coaching courses are ones that you can do straight after qualifying as an L2, possibly after only having done a gap year course.
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@ajc2260626, and @rjs, I guess I'm coming from a climbing background, where even though I love skiing resorts, I mainly love being in the mountains and as such those are skills that I have sought to learn earlier in my skiing "life" than most.

If you are coming at it from a resort skier turned instructor/inspirational instructor then it probaly does all feel a bit alien.
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ajc2260626 wrote:
(my aim is not to become a ski instructor) Very Happy


What is the point then, if you don't mind me asking? Do you not have to teach in order to get the qualifications?
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galpinos wrote:
Do you not have to teach in order to get the qualifications?
200 hours required before you do the Teaching and the Technical assessments.
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as @rob@rar, says.... to fully qualify you need to do 200 hours which i might do as i would like to do the level 3 tech course

to answer your q @galpinos, i do it purely for fun and to improve my skiing etc
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ajc2260626 wrote:
to answer your q @galpinos, i do it purely for fun and to improve my skiing etc
That's why I started, but discovered I really loved teaching people to ski better. Careful, or you might get sucked in... Happy
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@ajc2260626, cheers for responding, I have toyed with the idea but I'm never going to be a full-time instructor was was questioning my motives. It's good to get other peoples perspectives.
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When my son (a.k.a. The Lad) did this course the BASI examiner ended up offering him a job as an orienteering instructor at his summer business in the Highlands.

The Lad had done his DoE Gold and Queen's Scout award hiking previously and was good with a map....he was amazed at how poor some of the others were (who failed)
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rungsp wrote:
When my son (a.k.a. The Lad) did this course the BASI examiner ended up offering him a job as an orienteering instructor at his summer business in the Highlands.

The Lad had done his DoE Gold and Queen's Scout award hiking previously and was good with a map....he was amazed at how poor some of the others were (who failed)
It's a great course, but it's not a giveaway and you need to be smart (like your son) and reasonably mature (like your son) to get the most from it. It's probably the BASI course I've enjoyed the most.
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I'm considering booking onto one, so please share how you get on @ajc2260626.

I'll probably book onto a later course for hopefully some better snow depth....
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Quote:

@gorilla, that sounds like the BASI mountain guide was Cube (thatís his nickname, usually based on Chamonix). He was my assessor for the final two days of my course. Interesting character.


Yeah. The class were getting an educated in a way that I recognised from school (provincial, private, old school). There's a time and a place for that instructional method, especially where you might subsequently screw up and get someone killed. The ones that didn't pass would have been much better prepared for a subsequent attempt.

As an aside, it would surprise me if anyone was anywhere near competent after doing a course of this sort. I have >1,000 hours unguided in avalanche terrain and, while I am not yet dead, I am nowhere near the standard of a guide or experienced instructor. Less a question of being in the same ballpark, not even really playing the same game.
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gorilla wrote:
As an aside, it would surprise me if anyone was anywhere near competent after doing a course of this sort. I have >1,000 hours unguided in avalanche terrain and, while I am not yet dead, I am nowhere near the standard of a guide or experienced instructor. Less a question of being in the same ballpark, not even really playing the same game.
One of the best things I learned on that course was just how much I had to learn!
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@galpinos, no worries, i did it as i had some time on my hands and wanted to get better, which i have, now its a little bit to see how far i can get probably have a chance on passing level 3 but thats it, but nice to do the course with effectively no pressure as am doing it just for fun.

@kitenski, will do, i think that the snow will be good in zermatt as early in the season and high so would imagine will be all untracked but not too deep which going up might be quite handy

the older i get the more risk averse i become so being safer off piste appeals to me
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@gorilla, think of it as a course not a qualification. It's sufficient training to get developing instructors to a level where they are safe to get experience of tours away from resorts, and start to learn. It gives them sufficient knowledge to be aware of the risks. They are definitely not mountain guides nor experienced instructors at this point. To qualify as a mountain guide truly is a different ballpark.
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My tips for going into the L3 Mountain safety course.

Practice or Learn how to take a bearing with a compass and how to read/navigate a map.

How to interpret contour lines, what they mean, symbols for footpaths, etc etc.

Also maybe practice in the UK in any terrain, does not have to be a mountain, could be countryside, beach etc.

Start at point 'A', plan route to point 'B', figure out how long you think it might take you in time and how far you believe the distance to be. Then do the walk for real and check you had the distance and time estimated correctly.

Practice in wide open spaces taking a bearing and using that bearing to get you from 'A' to 'B'.

Get your Zermatt laminated or get a plastic pouch thingy.

It's a fun course, The Youth hostel in Zermatt is a good set up and there will be lots of BASI people staying there. The youth hostel does evening meals too.
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Quote:

do some kick turns in the garden

make sure you create some sort of obstacle so you have to lift your skis high - and parallel to the surface! Photos would be good. Little Angel
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Bring a spare basket for your poles and some duck tape. I broke off the end of a pole on day 1 and had a mare...
Dont buy the laminated maps BASI recommends, they don't fold up well, better to get a map case and use normal maps imo.
Have a Sticking plaster with an arrow on it to mark current position is useful
altimeter or app for phone really helps and should be considered essential.
inner glove liners if you need to make repairs or if it is warm ish.
spare bottle of water in case your camel back freezes up.

If you have the type of shovel with the probe inside the handle take it out and assemble the shovel /handle to speed up your searches, guy on my course failed when he dropped the little clip thingy that holds the shovel head onto the handle and ran out of time on rescue.
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When my daughter did it she said the most important thing was to be fit, plus fast on the search which you can practice in the uk.
Iíve got some spare marker frame binding crampons if thatís what you need.
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@jbob, yep am reasonably fit (for my age) but will be getting the bike out and getting some miles in before the course, thanks for the offer but have some dynafit bindings and have ordered the relevant size Very Happy



@skimottaret, can you explain the sticking plaster bit?
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@ajc2260626, i have seen a few people do this and our Guide recommended that when you stop and take a position mark the map as to where you are. Helped me to quickly work out new position when quizzed by guide.

a waterproof plaster comes on and off the map easy and has a dual purpose of helping with raw ankles Smile
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