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Avalanche accident - Großes Mosermandl, Austria


"On March 28, 2013, the ABS® backpack saved my life and unfortunately only that of one of my companions.

The incident: During a ski tour on the Große Mosermandl in the Niedere Tauern, a huge, dry snow slab came loose on the south side. The avalanche warning level was indicated between low and moderate. "Favorable! Note: Old drifting snow in the northern sector, light daytime drifting on the south side" was the heading of the avalanche situation report.

My companions entered the 35 to 40 degree steep Jakoberkar ahead of me, one by one, at intervals of several hundred meters. I was the last to go when the snow slab broke loose all around me. In the crack area about 80 m wide, the crack height on average 80 cm. I was carried away in the avalanche 500 meters in altitude over a distance of 750 m and remained uninjured. One of my companions died in the avalanche, the second was completely buried. Although I had checked the function of the device myself during the descent, I could not receive any signal from the avalanche transceiver of the buried person after the fall. The avalanche dog of the mountain rescuer flown in by emergency helicopter was able to find him after a few minutes. In total, my companion was buried for 35 to 40 minutes, about 70 cm. If I had not been able to raise the alarm, he too would have died. Days later, a relative of the buried person checked the affected avalanche transceiver with his own device and could also not receive a signal.

How I experienced the crash with the ABS® backpack:

Even before I fall, I can release the ABS®. The ski bindings come loose. I fall backwards and plunge with the avalanche - lying on my back, later on my stomach, but always with my head towards the valley - about 300 m into the depth. From time to time for several seconds I am completely covered or at least my face is covered by snow, breathing is impossible. Blocks of snow fall on me. I try to bring my arms protectively in front of my face, which does not succeed to some extent. Nevertheless, something protects my head and upper body, while I fall faster and faster into the depth.

Then the avalanche slows down, it seems as if the snow masses overtake me. In a moment it accelerates again. My body turns in the slower phase with the head upwards - uphill. I always lie on my back afterwards. With the shoes I try to brake the ride. But now the backpack pushes upwards on my body. The lap belt is in the area of the ribcage and restricts my breathing extremely. With every bump that slows the backpack, it pushes the air out of my chest. (I don't wear a crotch strap - now I know what it's for). My head, however, always feels protected. I can see again, and I'm getting better at actively braking with my legs.

Eventually I slow down. The entire snow masses have overtaken me. I come to a halt about 20 m above the avalanche cone unharmed. The sun shines brightly from the blue sky, the snow is dazzling white, I am alone and it is quiet."

Foto: Tegan Mierle