Adventures NW Winter 2013/14

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Avalanche Safety Gear Don’t Leave Home Without It by Chris Gerston


art of the beauty of living where we do is the amazing backcountry skiing. The day touring in the mountains with good friends, good work, and good terrain is a day well spent. But of course, much of this beautiful country is serious avalanche terrain, so before wandering out make sure that you’re being safe and carrying the correct gear. The best thing you can have with you is the knowledge gained from an AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) certified Level 1 avalanche course. The other essentials include a transceiver, shovel, and probe. Here are a few tips on the gear best suited to our snowpack. Probes are erroneously thought of as extraneous, but they greatly improve search times by reducing the amount of digging during a rescue. They come in as little as a 190 cm length, but probes between 270-320 cm are a better match for our deep snowpack. Most probes these days have an instant lockout mechanism, but make sure that you’ll be able to operate it with gloves on. Do not fool yourself into thinking that probe/ski poles are a lightweight substitute for a real probe - they take way too long to set up. You’ll need an avalanche shovel. There are lots to choose from. Considerations include the size of the blade, fixed or extendable handle, and how it’ll fit in your pack. After consulting with several avalanche experts, the conclusion is that for most people, a

Ortovox 3+ Transceiver

Backcountry Access B-1 Bomber Avalanche Shovel

smaller shovel blade will result in more efficient digging over time even though (and because) it throws less snow per scoop. Extendable handles are nice for your back and for snow camping. Flat headed shovels aid pit studies. The transceivers get all the glory. The current standard is a 3-antennae digital model. Each company has put their research and technology advancements into different aspects such as search range, processor speed, or multi-burial functions, but in truth, the training from a good avalanche course and practice are going to make a bigger difference than the nuances that separate most of the 3-antennae transceivers. The best transceiver is the one you are the most familiar with. Have fun - and be safe! ANW American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education training is available locally from American Alpine Institute ( and Mt. Baker Mountain Guides ( Between Milepost 20 - 21 Mt. Baker Hwy., Deming Ph 360/599-BEER (2337)

Black Diamond Guide Probe


Salmon & Eagles of the Skagit • Birding the Samish Flats • Snowshoe Tracking Sailing to Yellow & Jones Island • Spring Birding • Ross Lake Canoeing

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