AIARE 2 Avalanche Course, 2/15/13 thru 2/18/13

Yesterday concluded this season’s AIARE 2 Course. I was super stoked to facilitate this advanced avalanche course, “Analyzing Snow Stability And Avalanche Hazard”. We had 2 EMS School Guides from Lake Placid, Matt Weich and Jack Lane, new EMS Schools North Conway guide Jeremy Devine, and 4 other snow savvy back-country travelers in attendance.

We started the course at the AMC Highland Center on Friday, and after reviewing AIARE 1 curriculum we headed out to a nearby field location to refresh and build upon our Companion Rescue skills. Emphasis was on leadership and and triage in multiple and deep burial scenarios. Recent AIARE 1 Course Instructor and fellow EMS School Guide Mike Lackman joined us to help with the afternoon session.

On Day 2 we dove into some of the complexities of mountain weather and snow-pack metamorphism. Despite chatting about temperature gradients, vapor pressure effects, and the differences between short-wave and long-rave radiation everyone stayed quite engaged… wait… what’s the difference between a layer & an interface again? 😉

That afternoon we headed out to the Marshfield Station at the base of the cog to learn about full profiles. While quite esoteric, this was the revealed snowpack on the west side of Mount Washington at 2,540 feet:

Marshfield Snow Profile
Marshfield Snow Profile

Day three started with a bit more classroom as we introduced some standardized weather and snowpack recording techniques and some new small and large column tests. We hit the trail around 11:45 and skinned up to 4,700 feet along the Cog Railway making observations along the way.

Starting our ascent
Starting our ascent
Reaching treeline
Reaching treeline
Jack, Matt, and Jeremy, all EMS School Guides
Jack, Matt, and Jeremy, all EMS School Guides

Along the way we experienced some small shooting cracks and some positive ski cutting results right alongside the Cog Railway. A few meters from “Jacob’s Ladder” at 4,750ft we dug some quick test pits to take a look at the layering up high. I didn’t get any footage/pics of the boot top powder we enjoyed on our 2,200 foot descent, but it was pretty sweet.

cog tour

We returned to the classroom late afternoon to go over the PM Stability and Hazard Checklist along with how to make our observations relevant.

On our final day we met at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center where the group went through a trip planning session on their own.

Morning Meeting
Morning Meeting

Mother Nature brought the insane cold temps for our full field day, as has been the norm this season, but we managed to check out conditions on both the southern aspects of the Lion’s Head Ridge (Summer of 69 Gully, with a great layer of Graupel!) and over on the eastern aspects below Hillman’s Highway, all along gathering weather and snowpack obs as we traveled through as much avalanche terrain as we could.

Approaching Hillman's Highway and seeing the damage of a R5, D4 years ago...
Approaching Hillman’s Highway and seeing the damage of a R5, D4 years ago…

During our tour we carried out many non-standardized test, hand shears, pole probing, etc., along with CT’s, ECT’s, PST’s, and a Rutshblock. Again, esoteric in nature here was my tour plan and field day:

photo 2A bit blurry, but a nice record of our day none-the-less. It was great working with these 7 folks at increasing their understanding of the avalanche phenomenon. As with every course I teach I learned more about the material, and how to try to deliver it to others, mainly through the willingness of the students to engage and challenge my delivery. I’ll be attending a AIARE 2 IRC (Instructor Refresher Course) next season, and would love to see EMS Schools provide 2 AIARE 2 courses a season, as collectively we all work at raising awareness on how to manage avalanche hazard while still getting “shred the gnar”.

Counting this weekend we only have 6 more AIARE 1 courses left this season. 2 are sold out, and the other 4 are close to sold out. If you’ve been wanting to get some formal avy training under your belt this winter this week could be your last chance to book. Please check the dates here and don’t delay!

See you on the mountain!

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