Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Monday, January 28, 2013

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Training

This past weekend, Tam, Dylan and I took an avalanche training course put on by Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG) (www.sawtoothguides.com) up in Stanley.  Dylan and I had previously taken a companion rescue course through SMG and wanted to expand our understanding of avalanche conditions.  Since we have dragged Tam into this sport, we figured she had better grasp these concepts as well.  The 3 day course was titled Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain.

We had met Sara and Chris Lundy of SMG at the Backcountry Film Festival back in December where I had "won" a training course in a silent auction.  They are part owners of SMG and seemed like great people, so we were very eager to get out and learn from them in the back country

It was nice to be out of the month long inversion we had been having in Boise, and seeing the sun in Stanley at 8AM was a good thing.  After meeting the other seven class members, we spent the first morning learning about avalanche fundamentals and the process of decision making while traveling in the back country.  After lunch, we headed out to Banner Summit for an afternoon of companion rescue training.  The basics of companion rescue are that it will take too much time to leave and find help, so in the very unlikely event that you are caught in an avalanche, your rescue will be made by your companion(s).

The group preparing for companion rescue training
Chris and Sara showing us how it's done.
Even though we experienced a bit of drizzle (after all it was 38 degrees out) during the afternoon, it was great to be outdoors.  We quickly learned that it will take a clear head to adequately perform a beacon search, pin point a buried person and dig them out.  More practice will definitely be needed.

Saturday morning came much too quickly, but the sun was out!  After a morning spent further disecting the avalanche forecast and leaning about using our AIARE field book, we were off to Galena Summit to make observations of avalanche terrain and to perform some snow pit tests.

Here we split up into two groups of five, Sara's "A" Team, of which Tam and I were part of and Chris's "B" team which included Dylan.  We put our skis on and immediately started skinning up the hill.  Periodically Sara would stop to teach us how to dig and evaluate a hand pit dug in the snow, point out possible avalanche terrain and talk about snow conditions.  During this portion of the day we recorded our observations into our field book for further reference.

Around lunch time we stopped on a NE facing slope to dig individual snow pits and evaluate the snow layers.

Tam deciding on where to cut into the snow

Yours truly, posing with my probe

Sara expanding on the the virtues of analyzing the snow conditions

Jessica finishing off her Rutschblock test

In addition to performing hand pit tests, we dug through the 140cm of snow to ground level to perform both compression and Rutschblock tests.  It quickly became clear that these test results are not the easiest to interpret and are just a part of good decision making.

After our snow tests, Sara found us a nice little powder stash to ski down back to the cars.

Like the evening before, we all gathered after dinner back at SMG headquarters for an evening session to discuss the day's events.  This evening was special since we all had to come up with a group interpretive dance!  I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Sunday morning again came quickly.  The big differences this morning were that we were going to put all we learned into planning and executing a backcountry ski trip and it was snowing!  During our morning discussion on the avalanche forecast, Chris and Sara informed us that Banner Summit had received a little over 8" of new snow and this would be our destination.

We spent the better part of an hour in our groups of five reviewing maps and Google Earth images of Copper Mountain to plan our ascent and descent routes.  Here it became apparent how difficult it is to make decisions in a group that doesn't know one another well.  But, after going round and round, we all came to a consensus on preferred lines and others that were optional, then headed out into the field.
Heading out
Copper Mountain

Shedding some layers

We climbed for an hour and a half before reaching the Lunch Counter where we stopped for, well, a lunch break.  Here we reviewed our trip plan, dug and analyzed some hand pits and tried to make a decision on which line to make our descent.  The sun was out, there was no wind, and the 8" of light fresh untracked powder were making the decision difficult.  At this point it became apparent to me how easy and foolish it could be in deviating from an original plan.  The options seemed almost unlimited and the snow looked so good!

Group discussing options
Tam determining slope angle
But after some discussion, we made a choice and stuck to it.  We skinned up an additional couple of hundred feet before we stripped the skins and headed down for some silky smooth turns.
Alex making some turns
Jessica showing good form
Chris gliding through the trees
Tamara getting some POW!
Chris pointing out our descent options
In no time, we had made our way back to the road for the short walk back to our vehicles.  With everyone standing around smiling, we had our class debrief before we piled into the car and headed home.

I'd like to thank, as well as recommend, Chris and Sara at Sawtooth Mountain Guides for putting on an excellent class and showing us what we need to know to make good decisions in the backcountry.

It was also great to meet like minded people - Alex, Adam, Jessica, Bill, Emily, Inka, and Leslie.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Three Point Mountain Snowshoe

It is cold out here in Kuna this morning - something like 5 degrees!.  We were going to be up in McCall this morning for some backcountry skiing with John Platt, but with a forcasted high temperature of 10 and a low of -13, we decided to wimp out.

After a leisurely start to the morning Tam, Shadow and I headed out to get some fresh (and cold) air and do a little snowshoeing. Three Point Mountain is more hill than mountain, but it offers a close in location for some great views.

As we left the truck in the 15 degree afternoon, the sun was out and the wind was calm.
Three Point Mountain

Tam all bundled up
 As we gained the northern mountain summit, the inversion clouds moved in and really cooled the temperature down.  Luckily, these clouds didn't block the sun for too long.

The snow varied from knee deep powder to wind crusted sastrugi on the ridges.  Not unexpected, the way the wind had been blowing during last week's snowstorm.
Tam almost to the summit
 We had a good hike to two of the three points before we headed back down to the truck.

Shadow Splattski!

All smiles even though it was pretty cold.
We ended up hiking for a little less than two hours and gained a little over 600 feet.  A great day to enjoy the cold sunshine with two of my girls.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Taking Taylor Back to Bozeman - Part Tre'

It was time again to take Taylor back to Bozeman to finish up her third year of college.  Wow - her third year already.  As has become custom on these January trips, we made it a long ski weekend.  This year was hit Big Sky and Bridger Bowl.  Though the snow wasn't too deep, and the temperatures cold, we made the best of it.
Lone Mountain - Big Sky

Chairlift Splattski at Big Sky
Dylan getting in some teleing

Tam showing good form

Taylor ripping it up
Bridger Bowl
Dylan preparing to drop in
My two girls!

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen