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Colorado: Should you buy an ABS backpack? Mine saved my life today, I vote yes.

12.12.2010


"First of all, thanks to www.snowbigdeal.comwww.avalanche1.com without them I probably wouldn't be telling this story. Of the things that went wrong, there were a number of things that went right (basic habits & solid training), and these guys are a big part of the reason they went right! Today the danger in CO was very high, you didn't have to check CAIC (avalanche forecast) to see that. HEAVY winds, lots of fresh snow, almost whiteout conditions. We went out today and took it easy, no big hills, honestly - no hills with snow on them.

I was on a 10-15 degree slope and just starting to head for a gully. I realized I was in the wrong place (terrible visibility, I was about 45 degrees off the side I thought I was on) and started to turn around. I was already on the edge of the snow, then I saw cracks, so I went up on the rocks to let it pass. No big deal - let the little slide by. After I got out of the way I was hit by a cargo ship.

I was thrown so hard that I was jerked down, released my ABS® and then felt/heard the inflation, was lifted up, face down and to the edge of the avalanche. I got stuck about 100 feet later under 6" to 1.5' of snow. I was able to extricate myself. 70 feet below me was a cliff that would have destroyed me. This is a gully to the left of the cliff. Getting to the top of the avalanche was critical, being able to swim to the top kept me alive. I was equipped, had a Leatt mount and an ABS® backpack.

After being slammed to the ground I felt like they all played a part. My legs feel like I just swam some V+ creeking.... nasty stuff. This wasn't high profile, this wasn't in a place we thought was dangerous, we took a trail I've been on many times but with no visibility I wasn't where I thought & I had NO IDEA what was underneath. The release was removed, the crack was 12-15 feet & about 150-250 feet away. The snow pack is huge, my 320 probe (larger than average) barely hit the bottom of some & did not touch others. By far the most dangerous descent I have ever seen. I've seen bigger, but nothing that would throw you over a cliff like this. Almost a minute after I got up, snow was still coming down. This was one of the small avalanches running down the other side of the gully (well below where I was when it took me). I couldn't get a good enough view to get a good shot of the main avalanche. Layers of snow chunks the size between houses & buses.

About 2k ft below the onset: the snow pile is much larger than it looks, the photo was taken from a spot that was about 12' deep. This wasn't an adrenaline filled adventure, the kind of event you can tell yourself you'll never be stupid enough to be there, this was a simple navigation error we made on an ordinary snow day & it almost cost me my life.

Get a backpack. Mine didn't make it home today, but I did. THAT'S the difference."
 

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