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Colorado: Should you buy an ABS pack? Mine saved my life today, I vote yes.

12.12.2010


"First of all, many thanks to www.snowbigdeal.com & Mike Duffy / www.avalanche1.com I don't think I'd be telling this story without her. Of all the things that went wrong, there were a number of things that went right (basic habits & solid training), and these guys are a big part of the reasons they went right! Today the danger in the CO was very high, you didn't have to check the CAIC (avalanche forecast) to see that. HEAVY wind, lots of fresh snow, almost whiteout conditions. We went out today and took it easy, no big hills, honestly - no hills with snow on them.

I was on a slope of 10-15 degrees and was just starting to head for a gully. I realized that I was in the wrong place (terrible visibility, I was about 45 degrees from the side I thought I was on) and started to turn around. I was already on the edge of the snow, then I saw cracks, so I went up on the rocks to let it pass. No big deal - let the little glide by. After I was out of the way, I was hit by a cargo ship.

I was thrown so hard that I was pulled down, triggered my ABS® and then felt/heard the inflation, was lifted up, face down and came to the edge of the avalanche. I was left under 6" to 1.5' of snow about 100 feet later. I was able to rescue myself. 70 feet below me was a cliff that would have destroyed me. This is a gully to the left of the cliff. Getting to the top of the avalanche was crucial, the ability to swim up kept me alive. I was equipped, had a leatt bracket and a ABS® backpack.

After I was thrown to the ground I had the feeling that they all played a role. My legs feel like I just did a little V+ creeking. nasty stuff. It wasn't high class, it wasn't in a place we thought was dangerous, we took a path I've been on many times, but without visibility I wasn't where I thought& I had NO IDEA of what was underneath. The trigger was removed, the crack was 12-15 feet and about 150-250 feet away. The snow debris is huge, my 320 probe (bigger than average) barely hit the ground of some and didn't touch others. By far the most dangerous descent I have ever seen. I have seen bigger ones, but nothing that would throw you over a cliff like this one. Almost a minute after I got up, there was still snow. This was one of the small avalanches that ran down the other side of the gully (far below where I was when it took me). I could not get a good enough view to get a good shot of the main avalanche. Layers of snow boulders the size of houses & buses.

Approx 2k ft below the chute: The debris pile is much larger than it looks, photo is taken from a spot which was about 12' deep. This was not some adrenaline fueled F up, the kind of event you can tell yourself you'll never be stupid enough to be in, this was a simple navigational error that we made on a common snowy day & it nearly cost my life.

Get a backpack. Mine didn't make it home today, but I did. That's the difference."