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Avalanche accident - Grosses Mosermandl, Austria


"On March 28, 2013 the ABS® backpack saved my life and unfortunately only that of one of my companions.

The story: During a ski tour on the Große Mosermandl in the Niedere Tauern a huge, dry snow slab came loose on the south side. The avalanche warning level was between low and moderate. "Favorable! Please note: Old drifting snow in the northern sector, light daylight on the south side" was the headline of the avalanche report.

My companions rode individually in front of me at intervals of several hundred meters into the 35 to 40 degree steep Jakoberkar. I was the last one to ride when the snow slab broke loose around me. In the crack area it was about 80 m wide, the crack height averaged 80 cm. I was carried along in the avalanche for 500 meters on a distance of 750 m and remained uninjured. One of my companions died in the avalanche, the second was completely buried. Although I myself checked the functioning of the device when I left, I was unable to receive a signal from the avalanche transceiver of the buried person after the fall. The avalanche dog of the mountain rescuer flown in with the emergency helicopter can find him after a few minutes. In total, my companion was buried about 70 cm for 35 to 40 minutes. If I had not been able to alarm, he would also have died. Days later a relative of the buried person checked the affected avalanche transceiver with his own device and could not receive a signal either.

How I experienced the crash with the ABS® backpack

Even before I fall, I can trigger the ABS® The ski bindings come loose. I fall backwards and fall with the avalanche - lying on my back, later on my stomach, but always with my head towards the valley - about 300 m into the depth. From time to time for several seconds I am completely or at least my face is covered by snow, breathing is impossible. Blocks of snow fall on me. I try to bring my arms protectively in front of my face, which is not at all successful. Something still protects my head and upper body while I fall down faster and faster.

After that the avalanche slows down, it seems as if the snow masses overtook me. In a moment it accelerates again. My body turns in the slower phase with my head up - uphill. Afterwards I always lie on my back. With the shoes I try to slow down the ride. But now the backpack pushes itself upwards along my body. The lap belt is in the area of the costal arch and restricts my breathing extremely. With every bump that slows down the backpack, it pushes the air out of my chest. (I am not wearing a crotch belt - now I know what it is good for). My head however always feels protected. I can see again and can brake actively with my legs more and more.

Eventually, I slow down. All the snow has passed me. I come to a halt about 20 m above the avalanche cone uninjured. The sun shines brightly from the blue sky, the snow is blinding white, I am alone and it is quiet."

Photo: Tegan Mierle