Saturday, March 28, 2009

Being Safe, Not Sorry

Gigantic Lesson Learned!

Every once in awhile our plan of attack changes for one reason or another such as two much snow for hiking boots or daylight hours are closing in. Today our plan changed for a totally different reason!

Our adventure designer completed an exhaustive level of research on the area we planned to venture to. The plan was reviewed by overseers and we were good to go! Simply shown here in this elevation graph is how the day unfolded!

It was the first time I ever did a hike or snowshoe where right from the vehicle is a steep downhill. We parked by a snow bank along the Smith Dorien Highway just 2 km past the Peninsula Day Use area. We climbed up on the snow bank only to see this steep downhill in front of us. The only way down was to sit down with feet in the air and just go. Once at the bottom, we had a steep uphill climb ahead of us in deep snow through the trees and bushes. This is me through the tree with my head down, labouring through. I can only believe this has to be an excellent upper body workout pulling yourself uphill in deep snow with a heavy back pack on.
We reached the old gypsum road and began to follow it. We had a steep up hill to our left and a steep downhill to our right as we followed the narrow road which was more like a two foot wide path. In a previous flat area a few experienced a gentle sensation. Along this road is where I felt it! Standing for a second, I heard a whoomph and felt my whole body drop except my heart, which felt like it was in my throat ready to come out my mouth. At this point others felt it quite significantly and frequently. We saw in front of us, a fracture line. If you click on the whoomph above and hit play, you can see what was ready to happen next.
I was thankful we had knowledgeable people with us who knew exactly what was happening and suggested we turn around and get out of here, back to before the old road. We found an opening on a gentle slope and decided this would be our dining spot. One of the fellows shoveled a hole to see what the layers of snow looked like. There you go, underneath was a layer of crystallized snow and then a wide pocket of nothing.
We enjoyed our lunch, took some group photos, then packed up for the steep downhill section. Most of this downhill, I spent on my behind, it felt safer and was easier on my legs and back. It was steep enough that we needed to stay in control, some did end up straddling trees.
Once back at our vehicles it was time to bring out the pelican snow flites! I am getting better and quicker at this, this time around my maximum speed was 19.3 km/hr.
Today was quite an adventure and learning experience! The whole whoomphing episodes were scary but quite neat. In a way I am glad I got to feel that, in the presence of others and knowledgeable folks. If it ever happens again, I will listen to the mountain and get the heck out of there!
After only 2.6 km and 4:05 due to steepness and bushwhacking, we still didn't make it to our destination because we believed it is better to be safe, not sorry! The incident was being reported to avalanche.ca so they can post an advisory notice on their website.

1 comment:

  1. Good decision! I see you studiously avoided using the 'a' word so I won't either, but that is one scary potential scenario. All in all looks like you got a pretty good workout though!

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