AIARE 1 Avalanche Course 1/30/16-2/1/16

Last weekend we conducted our 3rd AIARE 1 Avalanche Course of the season. While it wasn’t as intense as our course two weeks ago it was a very productive 3 days. We were lucky to have high altitude climber and expedition organizer Phil Crampton, of Altitude Junkies, participating in our course.

What is someone who has led 40+ expeditions to 8000m peaks doing in an entry level avalanche course? Phil wants to work on designing an avalanche awareness program focused specifically on Sherpas, of which he admits there are multiple cultural challenges to hurdle. Gaining some exposure to AIARE’s approach to avalanche education in the US will hopefully give him some ideas of how to best move forward in his endeavor.

Having someone of Phil’s experience in the course certainly made it a rich course. His stories of surviving multiple massive avalanches, participating in some dismal recoveries, and over-all demeanor were appreciated by all.

Conditions for the course were less than optimal. This El Nino is becoming a curse word within my circles but we were able to sniff out some decent conditions to meet our objectives. A 48 hour thaw led to Considerable avalanche danger on our 3rd day.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Avalanche Information board at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

Our class had decided on either Left Gully or Right Gully as potential field locations. Both were rated “Moderate” but avoiding the run outs of “The Chute” and “Sluice”, both rated Considerable, was definitely part of our travel plan.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Looks more like December than February to me but I’ll take it

We decided to head up towards Right Gully following a skin track from another avalanche course.

AIARE Avalanche Course
The other course investigates The Sluice

We held up to the Right of Right Gully and set up shop to make some snow-pack observations in over 3 meters of snow.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Digging in

The snow-pack on this 38 degree slope was quite bomber now that the temperatures had fallen below freezing. Some interesting “veins” of melt water could be found in spots along with some centimeter thick melt-freeze ice crusts. We practiced Compression Tests with unsurprising results.

Only two of us were on skis for this course given the challenging snow conditions and horrible shape of the Sherburne Ski Trail. A few turns were made descending the lower half of The Sluice before walking back to Hermit Lake and taking the very beat up Sherburne back to Pinkham. Without a doubt the trail was in rough shape and I was ready to by a ticket to Durango when I reached the lot. Type 2 fun would be a stretch…

We reviewed our day before debriefing the course and went our separate ways.

AIARE Avalanche Course
My tour plan and field notes from the day

The next day I had a Private Ice Climbing day at Cathedral Ledge I’ll share in a new post.

As I finish this I must say I’m really glad to be looking out the window at some consistent snowfall. NWS is calling for 2-4 inches and I’d say I’ve hit the low end of that already in Conway. If you haven’t heard, the MWV Ice Fest is happening now. I might make it to some of the festivities tonight at Theatre in The Woods in Intervale, NH. Starts at 7pm. Maybe see you there.

See you in the mountains,


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