Occasionally cams will need some maintenance to continue to operate smoothly. If you find the trigger and springs in your cams getting “sticky” use a mild soap like Nikwax Tech Wash followed by a lubricant like Metolius Cam Lube to restore them to like new operation!
Metolius recently added to their line of passive climbing protection with the simple and accurately named “Metolius Big Nuts“. This set is a light and affordable way to add larger protection to your trad rack.
When I started trad climbing I used to carry a few hexes to round out my rack before I could afford doubling and tripling up on some of the larger sized cams (Black Diamond C4 #1 and larger). At some point I retired carrying hexes though I’d still consider carrying a couple on longer alpine routes. The new Metolius Big Nuts are a great way to increase your protection options if you climb a lot of wider cracks without adding a lot of weight or cost to your rack. Let’s look at some specifications.
These can be purchased separately or in a set of four. Let’s compare these sizes and weights to representative Black Diamond C4 cams.
These all also taper on the larger “endwise” plane effectively increasing their placement size up to the next equivalent cam. For example the #4 Big Nut (the red one) is 2.1 inches in size making it suitable for a crack that would normally accept a Black Diamond #2 (the yellow size not pictured).
The full set of Big Nuts weighs just under 12 ounces and basically covers the same size cracks that a set of Black Diamond C4’s from size .3 to size 2 would cover. A extra set of those size cams would weigh a little over a pound, for a weight savings of about 6 ounces. The real savings is in cost through. The set of four is on sale right now for $71.21. Price varies on a set of the equivalent sized cams but is roughly about $350.
The Metolius Big Nuts are tapered and curved which helps them fit a variety of placements. The concave and convex sides of the nuts are more pronounced than the sides of a more classic nut like the Black Diamond Stoppers. One online review suggests this creates security in placements while possibly making them harder to clean. In my use of them I did not notice any difficulty cleaning but opinions will vary based on the type of rock you are climbing on and the quality of your individual placements.
The Metolius Big Nuts are an excellent way to increase your large crack protection options without breaking the bank on another set of cams. I’m finding these useful on my local trad crags and would definitely take them on my next alpine adventure further away. If you are looking at beefing up your trad rack this year consider a set of these!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Metolius provided this item at no cost for review. Affiliate links above support the content created here.
Usually I review outdoor gear and provide technical tips for climbing and backcountry skiing here but today I’m reviewing something a little different… a video editing service. I first heard of Spivo through a sponsored Instagram ad soon after returning from a 7 day backcountry ski trip to Iceland. The timing was great as I had a lot of video and still footage from the trip so I reached out to see if I could get a sample of there service to share with you. The response was positive and I was soon logging into the service to upload my videos and photos to see what they could do with.
It’s pretty simple actually. You start by requesting a video edit quote for yourself, someone else (great gift idea), or a business. Next question is what kind of video you would like with choices being; Travel or Adventure Video, Action Sport or Motorsport Video, Vlog Video, or Event, Honeymoon or Wedding Video. Then you select how long you want the finished edit to be with options ranging from less than a minute to a full half-hour, with “3 to 6 minutes” being labeled as “most popular”. Pricing will then be displayed with discounts and promotions available if you purchase more than one editing project. Here’s a couple examples of current pricing with a few different selections:
Cinematic Adventure Video Edit 1-3 minutes long in 1080p HD Quality: $219
Cinematic Adventure Video Edit 1-3 minutes long in 4K/360 Videos: $319
Cinematic Wedding Video Edit 6-9 minutes long in 1080p HD Quality: $349
Once you select your options and checkout you will receive an email with a link to upload your files. My sample order was for a 3-6 minute edit and allowed up to 20Gb of uploading. I was interested in going through the entire process only on my iPhone and it was quite simple to select the videos and photos I have in My Photos and start uploading them. I selected about 5Gb (everything I took in Iceland) and started uploading. At some point I must have disconnected from WiFi and it appeared everything wasn’t uploaded. I couldn’t easily see which videos or pics from my phone didn’t get uploaded so I reselected my geo-tagged Iceland photos and did a second upload assuming the editors would recognize any duplicate images/files.
Once everything was uploaded I wasn’t exactly sure if I needed to do anything else. A quick message to the company was responded to promptly directing me to log back into my video edit order page (easy) and answer just a few more questions before their editors would start working on the project. There were just a few questions about any direction I wanted to give, key moments, creative thoughts, and a chance to select a music theme from possible hundreds of unlicensed options. I really wanted to let the company do what it felt was appropriate creatively so I basically just answered “editor’s choice” to each of the customizable options. Once that was completed I received an email stating they would get to start on my edit and I would receive the video within 7 days!
Six days later I received the email that Felix had finished editing the video and it was ready to view and download! You can watch the video before downloading and share it via a link. This is helpful if you watch it and decide it needs any revisions (free revisions until you are happy with the video or full refund offered).
Downloading the video on my iPhone was pretty simple but it took me a minute to figure out where it was located. I found it “Files” on my iPhone, and could then click on “Save Video” to have it findable in the more convenient “Photos” app on the phone. I could then easily upload it to YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
The original edit ended up being 4 minutes and 48 seconds long. I immediately liked the soundtrack that Felix selected as it fit the Icelandic landscape quite well. The cuts were smooth and polished and in great time with the music. My overall impression was it was a quality edit of the probably hour or more of videos and photos I had uploaded if but just a tad long. Here it is with out any revisions being requested if you’d like to see.
Being an Instagramer I reached back out to the company to see if 60 second edits were an option and was told a 60 second highlight edit can be requested for an additional $50. A few days later I received another email with my shortened highlight edit. I really liked the cadence and length of this edit for today’s busy digital consumer clocking in at 1:07. Here it is:
So the big question, is the service worth it? With prices ranging from low 200s to high 300s for most projects the answer is it depends. Ever since my first iPhone and discovering the iMovie app I’ve enjoyed learning to edit my own home family movies and adventure projects. I rate my editing skills as solidly mediocre. If you are not great at editing this service makes a lot of sense after a cool vacation or adventure somewhere. There’s also the time it takes to edit these projects… My own amateur edit of the same trip ended up being about two minutes in length but took me 5-6 hours of editing to get it down to something I wanted to share. You can see my edit of this trip here if you’d like to compare. A lot of people might not have the free time, or the motivation, to sort through all the video and images you captured on your latest adventure to create something memorable and entertaining. I think it’s also clear my edit is pretty amateur and the Spivo edits have a professional level of polish! I can definitely see why this service has a market and is probably doing quite well!
I also think the idea of using this to create a wedding video is a very novel idea and likely a few thousand dollars cheaper than hiring a professional videographer for your wedding. Just think about it, if you have everyone who is at your wedding taking videos and pictures and they can all just upload to a central place like Spivo where they then edit and produce your wedding video in 7 days for less than $500? I’ll be suggesting this to my brother who is getting married this June in fact!
See you in the mountains.
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample of this service was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support the content created here at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
I think most people who follow me know I have a thing for “sun-hoodies”. They are literally my favorite type of active outdoor clothing and I’ve had the opportunity to review quite a few different brands. When I saw the KÜHL’s AIRKÜHL™ Men’s Hoody I immediately placed an order. For those who are not aware of what a “sun-hoody” is it’s basically the best thing to happen to outdoor clothing since the use of synthetics! It is by far the BEST protection from both sun/UV and the incoming mosquito/black fly season! Every outdoors-person should own at least one (I won’t disclose how many I currently have in my gear closet).
Let’s start with…
Incredibly soft with superior moisture management and breathability, KÜHL’s AIRKÜHL™ Men’s Hoody displays excellent abrasion and snag resistance for increased durability. Maximum sun protection (UPF 50+) paired with odor resistant properties keep you fresh and confident throughout the day.
Five-panel hood constructed to lay flat without bulk when not in use
Featuring the original thumb loop
DIFFERENT BY CONSTRUCTION
Open-air construction for advanced breathability
Odor-resistant infused fabric keeps you fresh longer so you can wash less and wear more
UPF 50+ sun protection
Sun-hoodie season is from the end of April to the late September so I spend a lot of days wearing one of these! I can tell from the weight of the fabric KÜHL has found a great balance in lightweight comfort and durability. I’ve worn mine for about 20 days so far this season without washing so I can attest to the “odor-resistant” technology. My wife would let me know right? The weave is somehow a bit tighter than other models which reduces snagging but is still super soft and breathable. Using the size chart I went for a size large and it fits great, just slightly snug in the forearms.
If you have already joined the sun-hoodie movement then you already know how great these are! KÜHL has joined a few other top-of-the-line companies in producing a seriously excellent sun-hoodie and this one is available and in-stock in 4 different colors (I’m really partial to the two lighter colors, Sea Breeze and Cloud Gray). A slightly different model is offered in womens, the KÜHL ENGINEERED™ HOODY. A great addition to any outdoor wardrobe made by an ethical company! A couple more KUHL reviews will be coming soon!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: The author purchased this item with his own money. Affiliate links help support this blog! Thank you.
I rarely shop for non-technical casual pants but when a marketing email from KÜHL® came across my desk for the KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants I decided to pull the trigger on purchasing a new pair of casual work pants. After a couple of months of wear not only am I really happy with the purchase I’m also motivated to write a short review for these comfy rugged canvas pants!
The fit of these pants is excellent in part because KÜHL® offers them in multiple inseam lengths and waist combinations and actually has most options in stock!
The KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants are a “Full” style which is wide through the knee and leg opening. I went for a 34 Waist, 30 Inseam for my build and they hit the spot like no pair of cargo pants or jeans I’ve ever worn!
The KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants are based on the “Full” style which definitely makes them feel like a casual work pant vs. a more technical hiking/climbing pant that I usually review. The material is 98% cotton, 2% Spandex, and while a rugged “canvas” type pant they feel soft and breathable for daily casual wear.
These have become my favorite pair of every day wear pants. Manufacturer listed features are:
Two side pockets; one zip for security
Gusseted crotch for freedom of movement
French fly interior button closure
Double ply front
My favorite feature of these pants, other than how well they fit, is the side zippered pocket which fits my Flowfold Minimalist Wallet and passport easily… these were the only pair of non-technical pants I wore to travel internationally last month and the size and added security of that side zippered pocket was perfect. Both that zippered pocket along with a non-zipper side pocket on the right side is suitable for EDC items.
I’m not accustomed to reviewing pants not designed for ice climbing or backcountry skiing but I like these pants so much I felt they deserve some attention! If you are in need of a rugged but comfy pair of casual work pants you can’t go wrong with the KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants! I also have some other great KÜHL® items, including an amazing sun hoody, I’ll be reviewing shortly!
See you in the mountains!
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: I purchased these pants with my own money. Affiliate links above support the content created here. Thank you.
I’ve had a few months to demo and review the Italian made AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots and I’m ready to share my opinion on them! Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first. I first heard of this company through a social media ad and I purchased a pair of the AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes because I have a thing for approach shoes! The shoes performed so well I published this review and later reached out to see if I could get a media sample of the AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots to review. AKU supplied me with a pair to check out but this has in no way effected my opinion of the boots. Read on to see how they were tested and how they performed!
How they were tested:
Test period: December – March
Use: Winter hiking, mountaineering, and waterfall ice climbing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Approx. 20 days of use, 100+ miles, over 40,000 feet of elevation gain/loss.
Bottom Line (TL;DR version)
These are a solid choice for the winter hiker/climber who spends equal time between general winter mountaineering (snow climbing) and more technical waterfall ice climbing that won’t break the bank!
I went with a UK 8, EUR 42, USA M 8.5 and the fit was perfect for my medium width foot with a regular arch and a slight Morton’s toe. The lacing system has a great pulley system at the lower top of the foot, 6 “mini” pulley’s to be exact then a self-locking ratchet mechanism. This system makes securing the foot in the boot super quick and efficient. The result is zero toe-bashing while kicking up waterfall ice while wearing crampons or while descending of any steep hiking trail. I never felt a need to “snug up” my laces for the descent with these boots feeling comfortable and secure all day long!
For general winter hiking and mountaineering these performed quite well! AKU doesn’t list how much Primaloft insulation is in the liner but there is enough to keep my feet toasty down to 10 degrees below Fahrenheit with wind chills around -20 to -30 above tree-line. My feet stayed warm throughout each trip (wearing my Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks)! For general winter hiking and mountaineering I paired them with my Petzl Vasak 12-Point Mountaineering Crampons and they worked great together!
For ice climbing I was quite impressed with their performance, especially at the price point! The lasting board, which gives the sole its stiffness, is made out of “6-4 MM Nylon & Die Cut EVA for Rock Protection & Stability”. More important to me is the welt is fully compatible with my technical ice climbing crampons with a solid front and back lip on the welt. My Petzl Dart Crampons fit perfectly on the welt and felt secure on many pitches of Grade 3 waterfall ice.
The AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots are a great winter “all-a-rounder” that will basically perform well in pretty much any snowy situation below 8000 feet. This makes them an excellent choice for winter hikers working on their “Winter 48” 4000 footer list, and for winter hikers who are considering breaking into the waterfall ice climbing sport. They are technical enough to handle waterfall ice and mixed climbing at almost half the price of most technical ice climbing specific boots. The fact that they are made in Italy is apparent in their craftsmanship and I have no doubt these boots can survive a decade of winter exploration. If you’re in the market for a great pair of winter hiking boots you should give these a try!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support this blog. Thank you.
In preparation for the Spring hiking, camping, road-tripping season VSSL is offering 20% off it’s two available First Aid models, the regular and the mini! The sale ends on Monday, March 28th so if you need a solid first aid kit for your pack, car, or kayak you should take a look here! I originally reviewed in detail the VSSL Survival Model all the way back in 2015! If you’re interested in that review you can check it out here!
Yesterday I received an email from REI informing me of some great changes to their membership program. I became an REI Member at their flagship store in Seattle, Washington during a Cascades climbing trip in 2017. While every REI Member enjoys their yearly dividend check members will now have access to free shipping from REI.com, early access to special offers, access to the Buy & Trade used gear section, and 20% off shop services!
All of this for a one-time fee of $30? This is a membership that literally pays for itself just by purchasing $300 or more over a lifetime!
You can read more details on these changes and the rest of the member benefits here.
Northeast Alpine Start is affiliated with REI and shopping through any of the above links will earn this site a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.
In almost every avalanche course I teach we have a discussion about the use of avalanche airbags. My opinions on this matter have changed over time in light of new information and advancements in technology. Earlier in my avalanche education days I would cite statistics such as 75% of avalanche fatalities on Mount Washington were caused by trauma, not asphyxiation, the mechanism of death that an avalanche air bag is supposed to reduce the chance of in certain situations. Therefore I would conclude, perhaps wrongly, that avalanche airbags did not seem as valuable in our unforgiving terrain. In this article I will present a new argument for the use of avalanche airbags in the East, specifically for the backcountry touring community. First, a bit of background information that may be useful to the uninitiated.
How They Work
Simply put an avalanche airbag backpack has a handle or “trigger” that gets pulled by the wearer when caught in an avalanche which then causes a deployment system, either compressed air or electronic, rapidly fill a large rugged “ballon” that was stored inside the backpack. This “ballon” basically works to keep the wearer closer to the surface of the snow in a moving avalanche via “granular convection“, often referred to as the “Brazilian nut effect”. This video shows the effectiveness quite well.
Here are a few other things I will note that are relevant to this video. First, backcountry snowboarders and split-boards should see the value in an avalanche airbag perhaps at a higher level than skiers. The reason for that is these travelers do not have release-able bindings and therefore are more likely to be pulled under the snow during the type of avalanche motion seen in this video, referred to as “wet flowing” in the snow science community. Second, this avalanche path is a good example of a path with a safe runout. An avalanche airbag deployment is less likely to result in a positive outcome if you have terrain traps below you i.e. rocks, trees, cliffs, gullies, crevasses, creeks, etc.
A Change in Demographic
Before 2019 the main demographic for avalanche fatalities on Mount Washington were either ice climbers or winter hikers (11) and only three skiers. There has been an obvious shift in how people are recreating in the terrain with a noticeable explosion of the backcountry touring population (AT skiers, Split-boarders, Tele). This change in usage increases the chance of a survivable avalanche in a few ways.
First, getting caught in an avalanche while on foot or while skinning low in an avalanche path is often more serious than triggering something from the top. While there’s obviously a fair amount of luck surviving any avalanche the first avalanche involvement of our season resulted in no injuries for the person who triggered the avalanche and was carried the full slide length while the victim who was hit mid-path suffered serious trauma. In January of 2016 while teaching an avalanche course in Tuckerman Ravine I watched 4 people get caught and carried in an avalanche right next to our class. The avalanche also hit a 5th person in the runout resulting in the most serious injuries of the incident. Last year’s well reported Wilson Glade quadruple fatality (Utah) also showed how getting caught in the up track while ascending can have more dire outcomes.
Second, while it is suggested that anyone recreating in avalanche terrain carry the appropriate safety gear (transceiver, probe, shovel, and perhaps an avalanche airbag) this author believes these items are still less likely to be carried by the eastern ice climber or mountaineer. The merits and justifications of this choice are for another topic but I will suggest the fact that the majority of backcountry touring parties are carrying basic avalanche safety gear this user group is more likely to survive an encounter with an avalanche than a group without these items.
A Increase in Acceptable Risk
In a recent survey of backcountry touring groups who travel in avalanche terrain I asked two questions. The first:
While not unexpected the majority responded they would consider touring in avalanche terrain under a “Moderate” danger level. The North American Avalanche Danger Scale describes the likelihood of a human triggered avalanche as “possible” under a Moderate level, and “likely”, under a Considerable level. Almost one in three respondents would consider traveling in avalanche terrain when both natural avalanches are “possible” and human triggered are “likely”.
While some research has shown that the most avalanche fatalities occur during a “Considerable” danger level:
Other research shows that “Moderate” is actually the danger level where most fatalities occur:
Since these stats can be adjusted based on what data sets you are looking at I will just look at the fatalities and involvements I have personal experience with.
At least four of the last 6 fatalities on Mount Washington occurred under a “Moderate” danger level. The majority of reported “near misses” and involvements occur under a “Moderate” danger level. As a region we also see a fair share of incidents when under a “General Advisory” early in the season before the Mount Washington Avalanche Center starts issued daily forecasts.
The second question I asked in the recent survey was:
These results confirmed my suspicion that avalanche airbag usage in the East is still an exception and not common place. Based on the change in demographics, risk acceptance, and improvements in technology I believe we should see this change.
Improvements in Technology
Probably the biggest change an avalanche airbag technology is the growing availability, lower costs, and convenience of electronic airbag systems. Traditionally canister style avalanche airbags were the most common. Having to maintain a canister type system is likely a deterrent for many who might otherwise benefit from owning an avalanche airbag. Air travel with canister systems can be difficult, requiring you to discharge the system and find someplace at your destination that can refill your canister. You’d be less likely to practice deploying your airbag if the system only allowed one deployment. Now there are multiple electronic models that allow for multiple deployments, are easy to fly with, and can be charged anywhere you have an electric outlet. Some notable electronic models now available:
The real reason for my change in opinion on the validity of avalanche airbags in the East is a bit personal. When looking at the last two avalanche fatalities on Mount Washington the case for more common airbag usage is clear to me. There is a very important similarity between the tragic deaths of Nicholas Benedix in 2019 and Ian Forgays in 2021. Both of these backcountry riders were caught and carried in their avalanches, likely with the “wet flowing” motion shown in the previous video, and both ended up buried under the snow without suffering any trauma. Certainly a nearby partner who was not caught in the avalanche and had the right rescue gear and training may have been able to make the “save”, but unfortunately both were alone and unwitnessed avalanches. Take home point for me here is riders who occasionally travel solo in avalanche terrain should certainly consider the added layer of protection an avalanche airbag might provide. On the same day as Nicholas’s avalanche I myself triggered a large avalanche a few drainages away and was lucky to only be buried up to my waist. One of my only thoughts as I saw the snow coming down from above me was I was not wearing my avalanche airbag. Even more recently was a miraculous save in the Adirondacks just a week ago after two skiers were caught, one fully buried and the other just enough to still get out and save his partner. They were the only two in the area and if but a few more inches of snow this would have been a double fatality.
Research shows avalanche airbags save lives, suggesting a deployed avalanche airbag will reduce mortality by 50% . While they should not be considered 100% protection against getting hurt or killed in an avalanche wearing one in avalanche terrain adds another layer of protection from the hazard. While the increase in backcountry travelers wearing avalanche transceivers has noticeably increased in the last 10 years I expect to see an increase in avalanche airbag use in the east over the next ten years, and for good reason. We just recently had our first avalanche transceiver full burial save in the eastern US, and I believe the first avalanche airbag save might not be that far in the future.
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This past Saturday around 1 pm history was being made on Angel Slides in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. Two skiers triggered a large avalanche that partially buried one and completely buried the other. As luck would have it one of the skiers was able to free himself from the snow in about 5 minutes. Using their avalanche transceiver they located their partner, buried nearby under 4 to 5 feet of snow. Unconscious and faintly breathing he regained consciousness while his rescuer continued to extract him from the snow. Ultimately they were both uninjured and they made their way back to the trailhead under their own power and reported the incident to a park employee.
And with that the first ever avalanche accident “save” was made in the Eastern US.
I use the word “save” to describe an incident where an avalanche victim is completly buried by an avalanche and recovered alive (and survives). This has never happened in the East, but I knew it was coming. Before 2019 I would often point out to my avalanche course students the interesting fact that no one had ever been buried in an avalanche in the East while wearing an avalanche transceiver. I would suggest that trend would change as more backcountry travelers were carrying the right equipment and it would only be some time before one of us found ourselves in the dark under the snow. Would we have a partner nearby who would be able to get to us in time?
The first person to be fully buried in the East with a transceiver on was Nicholas Benedix on April 11th, 2019. Nicholas survived for over two hours buried in Raymond Cataract on Mount Washington, but ultimately succumbed to hypothermia, a tragic and unique part of the history of avalanche accidents in the East. It would take less than two years before we would have a second person fully buried in an avalanche with a transceiver on. On February 1st, 2021 Ian Forgays was buried by a wind slab he triggered in Ammonoosuc Ravine, also on Mount Washington. Neither of these victims suffered trauma in their avalanches, but like Nicholas, Ian was traveling alone and therefore had no one near him to make the “save”.
With these two recent full burial accidents I’ve been suggesting to my students it is only a matter of time before we have a save. I would have put my money on the first East Coast save occurring on Mount Washington given the terrain and amount of visitation, but this moment in avalanche education goes to Wright Peak, in the Adirondacks.
Angel Slides, Wright Peak, Adirondack Mountains, New York
The Angel Slides are a series of three slides on the eastern flanks of Wright Peak, elevation 4,587 feet. According to The Adirondack Slide Guide: An Aerial View of The High Peaks Region, 2nd Edition by Drew Hass, Tropical Storm Irene (2011) created the far looker’s right slide path which was the path triggered during this accident. According to CalTopo.com the path is about 1,100 feet long, 170 wide, drops 608 feet with an average angle of 31 degrees and a max angle of 43 degrees, and is a North East aspect.
It should be noted that the only avalanche fatality known in the Adirondacks occurred on these slides, specifically the widest of the three, during February 2000, when Toma Vracarich and three friends were caught and carried. According to the Adirondack Almanac, all three of his friends were injured in the slide. He died beneath the snow and the slides were subsequently named the “Angel” slides. He was 27 years old.
Unlike the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire the High Peaks of the Adirondacks do not have an avalanche forecasting center. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation sometimes issues an early season “avalanche warning” but it is basically just an awareness statement with some links to learning about avalanches. Occasionally the National Weather Service issues an avalanche warning for the White Mountains Region. These warnings usually occur during obvious signs of danger like huge storms that dump two to three feet of snow in a short period of time but I haven’t heard if the NWS has ever done that for the Adirondack Region. Regardless these warnings don’t take the place of mid-season monitoring of the snowpack that occurs in a forecasted area like the one covered by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center.
To help with this information gap a couple community minded backcountry enthusiast’s have created the Adirondack Community Avalanche Observations website where backcountry travelers can submit observations made while out recreating. This is a great resource for the Adirondack community and it was just started about a month ago!
Another contributing factor to this accident is the type of avalanche they were dealing with. The followup investigation conducted by members of the Adirondack Community Avalanche Observations Team indicate that this was a Persistent Slab avalanche problem. This type of avalanche problem is not as common in our Maritime climate as it is in our Transitional (Utah) or Continental (Colorado) climates. When you have early season snow that is exposed to prolonged cold temperatures it can become very loose, “faceted”, and basically weak in structure. Then, as winter really arrives and subsequent snow storms bury that “rotten” layer of snow it can lie in waiting for weeks, sometimes months, for a trigger (us) to come and collapse that weak layer. We’ve been hearing this happen in this season’s snowpack in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It’s the awe inspiring “whumpf” heard when the layer collapses. In a flat field it’s a cool part of snow science to observe. On a slope approaching 30 degrees in steepness it’s a dreaded warning, like the shrill rattle produced by a threatened rattlesnake, it is the mountain telling us it’s about to bite.
History has been made in the East in regards to avalanche incidents. With no one else in the area two skiers survived a near death experience. The second hand account I received of the first skier, Bryan, regaining consciousness while choking on snow and partially, or fully buried just under the surface of the snow, conjured up an image in my head of an angel reaching down and brushing just enough snow away from his face for him to regain awareness, rescue himself, and then go on to rescue his partner. Remarkably and with out injury, these two survived an experience that could have easily gone south. Angel Slides was given its name after the passing of Toma Vracarich there in 2000. Maybe Toma was the one who brushed the snow away from Bryan and gave him a second chance? Or maybe it was just luck. Either way this is a story that could not have had a better ending, and I’m grateful it’s being told.
Disclaimer: All information above was gathered from reports the victims submitted themselves and the report linked below. I have not spoken with either of the victims so there could be errors in my reporting. If I’m able to talk with with them I will update this post with more information.