A couple weeks ago I kicked off this seasons weekly gear reviews with Outdoor Apps Review Part 1, where we looked at three of my most used outdoor apps; ViewRanger GPS (USA), MyRadar, and PeakFinder Earth. While those apps covered navigation & weather, for Part 2 of this series I’d like to focus on snow safety apps. Check them out below and if I’m missing a must have app please let me know in the comments below so I can check it out!
“Theodolite is a multi-function augmented reality app that combines a compass, GPS, map, photo/movie camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer into one indispensable app. Theodolite overlays real time information about position, altitude, bearing, range, and inclination on the iPhone’s live camera image, like an electronic viewfinder.” – developer’s website
I use this app mostly in the winter while teaching avalanche courses and ski touring in the back-country. You can look down a slope or gully and get accurate information on aspect, elevation, and angle, three critical components to terrain selection when managing avalanche risk.
Check out this short video showcasing its features.
I usually suggest to my students on the first day of an avalanche course to download this free App, finally available on Android as well as iOS. It is packed with functionality but I use it most often for its quick and simple clinometer. Check out the other cool features here (and brush up on your German):
There are a few different “observation & recording” snow science type apps out there. This is definitely one of my favorite for its comprehensive scope and intuitive design. It is however an advanced app requiring a strong foundation in snow science and avalanche phenomenon to really be utilized. To put it bluntly, if you have never taken a formal avalanche course or had an amazing mentor this app may be a bit too much. Seek qualified instruction!
So there are three apps to check out for this upcoming winter season. I’ve used them all on an iPhone 5s but will be switching soon to the iPhone 6s Plus, and I’d be lying if I’m not a bit giddy about all that screen space for navigation focused apps. I’ll also be testing a Thule phone case to protect that beauty from the type of abuse I expect it to take. Who knew Thule makes phone cases?
I have some other snow focused apps I’ll mention in Part 3 of this series. In the meantime let me know what apps you rely on in the winter in the comments below!
Yesterday wrapped up the 2nd AIARE 2 Avalanche Course of the season. Six Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing Guides, 3 from North Conway, 2 from The Gunks, and 1 from our Lake Placid location spent the last four days furthering their understanding of the avalanche phenomenon by improving their weather and snow-pack observation skills along with their rescue skills.
After reviewing AIARE 1 information we spend the rest of our first day upgrading our rescue skills with focuses on deep burials, multiple burials, close proximity burials, and rescue leadership. The deep burial scenario required a full effort from everyone as our “debris” had set up like concrete and our target was a life size stuffed Gore-tex full suit!
Searching in Parallel, Micro-strip Search, Pro’s and Con’s of Marking, and Triage were all topics of that afternoon.
The next day was a heavy classroom day with lots of discussion on Mountain Weather, Online Resources, Metamorphism, and recording observations at the national standard in accordance with the “SWAG”.
We spent the 3rd morning covering the “how’s and why’s” of doing a Full Profile.
Despite increasing Spring like weather the snow pack was not iso-thermal, and a very distinct layer of 3-4mm advanced facets about 50cm down made for some impressive CT & ECT scores. (CT12 & 18, Q2 and ECTP 14)
From there we went on a short tour up to just above tree-line via the Cog.
After some poking around in the snow and previewing terrain in the Ammonoosuc Ravine we descending the Cog in fairly good conditions. Right before the base the snow that had started falling around noon turned to rain and we wrapped up our day back at the Highland Center.
For the last day of the course we met at Pinkham Notch and planned a tour into Tuckerman Ravine. We zipped up to Hermit lake in short order and had a quick birthday celebration for Ryan before updating our travel plans.
We skinned up a very stable Little Headwall and gathered at the floor of the ravine to make a plan. Our climbers headed up into Lobster Claw and our skiers moved across and up into Left Gully.
With lots of probing and hand-shears we worked our way up below the ice fall to the left of Left Gully and after a brief group discussion decided we could push higher up to the “choke” of the gully.
Just below the choke we get some fairly positive hand shear results but the slab that is failing is quite thin, only about 20-25 cms or so. Two of our group wish to push a bit higher, which seemed reasonable, so the rest of us de-skinned and spotted their last 100 foot climb to just above the choke. From here we all descended, one-at-a-time at first, then with good spacing down below. Turns were pretty soft in most spots with occasional sections of hard scoured surface. The flat light made it a bit tricky to really let it rip.
We gathered at the floor then descended Little Headwall to the Cutler River. The Upper Cutler was great. One of our group had skied the Lower Cutler (below the bridge) a week prior and the majority vote was to continue down it. It was the first I had skied below the bridge so with a smidgen of hesitation I followed the group down. I can’t say it was great skiing, a bit to heavy mashed potatoes made for a few of those “must turn now” moments. One actively collapsing snow bridge with quite a bit of water right at the end made me glad to be exiting out along the Huntington Ravine trail to cut back over to the John Sherburne Ski Trail. I would suggest bailing at the bridge for the rest of the season… unless you are into that type of stuff!
The rest of the Sherbi skied great though the warm snow was a bit slow as we got to the bottom. No complaints though, all it all a great run!
Back at the parking lot we spent almost an hour and a half debriefing the day and the course in general. Feedback on the course was solicited and shared, and an honest look at what’s next was provided by recent AIARE 3 Graduate Keith Moon. Many of our guides are on tracks for AMGA certifications that will require an AIARE 3 Certificate, so links & suggestions for future learning were provided.
This was a really fun course for me. Getting to work each day with many co-workers who I don’t often cross paths with was a great boon. I feel like I know each of them quite a bit better. Their feedback will definitely help the AIARE 2 courses I lead next year improve. And despite a bit of rain the weather through out the course was fantastic. While I have the rest of the weekend off I’ll be heading back up the hill on Monday, and again on Friday. Then a short vacation before our first ever Mount Washington Observatory AIARE 1 Course!
Then, and only then, will I let myself start focusing on the upcoming rock season. Winter ain’t over till it’s over!
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center issued it’s initial General Advisory for the 2014/15 season a few days ago on December 6th. The current Winter Storm Warning has prompted an update today. Monday also saw the first reported human triggered avalanche of the season;
“A climber was descending Yale Gully when he triggered a small avalanche below him. He later triggered another small pocket at the top of the fan which took him off his feet.” -MWAC
Here is a shot one of the USFS Rangers took last Friday of Yale:
Not much snow up there right? Early season snow packs can be deceiving. The final words of an avalanche bulletin, even a general advisory, can carry some important clues;
“Don’t let the lack of a danger rating lull you into complacency. Traveling through small snowfields can put you into or underneath unstable snow, and all of these pockets are going to be subjected to additional load over the course of the next few days.”- Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
UPDATE 12/10/14: Please see additional information from this incident with a first hand account of what happened here.
Have you put fresh batteries in your beacon yet? Now is a great time to get outside with you partners and run through some rescue drills. Remember it’s the people you tour with that will give you the best chance of surviving a mistake!
Also, if you have procrastinated signing up for an avalanche course you might want to do so today. Out of 7 scheduled courses we are already sold out of seats for 4. That leaves only 3 courses to chose from and it is not even Christmas yet! Go here to find out more and sign up!