How do you feel about considerable? Are you one to stay inbounds and out of the backcountry, waiting for a lower rating to branch out? Or perhaps you're the type of person to say, "Well it's ONLY Considerable, after all it's not high." What if I told you that 51% of avalanche related deaths in Canada happen when the danger rating is at Considerable? Does that change your perspective?
Their's three reason why Considerable is such a problematic hazard rating; it's risk is subjective to each person, requires advance training to choose terrain and monitor the snowpack and finally, it often involves a low probability / high consequence scenario. These factors make navigating in the mountains during a Considerable hazard challenging.
Words by Brent Hillier Photos by Brent Hillier & John Kearns
Whistler is great in a lot of ways, one theme that reoccurs in my life is the benefit of learning new things on the slopes of Whistler/Blackcomb. Whether it's skiing or mountain biking I've never left the Resort without some additional skills. It's no surprise that an AST course in Whistler always delivers a fantastic learning experience. One Saturday I headed up with my friend John and introduced him to backcountry skiing, with a private AST 1.
Words by: Brent Hillier Photos by: Brent Hillier & James Dahmer
In my article A Winter of Learning, I explained this years unique problem of a Persistent Weak Layer at the bottom of our snowpack which was buried at the end of November. Up until a Melt Freeze cycle and subsequent cold snap, this layer had continued to produced avalanches. On the coast we were dealing with a major snowpack instability, one we were managing by staying out of steep and rocky terrain. It's meant a winter, not only lacking in snow, but lacking in the ability to branch off into steep, challenging terrain.
The crust that developed during the end of January did do the job of bridging the weak layer at the bottom of our snowpack. No avalanches have been reported on that layer since. My prediction of surface faceting did take shape, what it didn't do was completely deteriorate the melt-freeze crust. So our basal layer, although still producing results in Deep Tap Tests, is now unlikely to be skier triggered.
What I did see taking shape on January 29th, as I hiked into the Keith's Hut, was some very substantial surface hoar development. Shortly after we experienced some extremely cold temperatures in the -20°C range, causing faceting. Our next avalanche problem was beginning to take shape.
Surface Hoar on the approach to the Keith's Hut on January 29, 2014
Words by: Brent Hillier Photos by: Brent Hillier, Norma Ibarra & Tim Gage
When I first started my career in the Avalanche Industry my mandate was to use every opportunity as a learning experience. While patrolling on Mount Seymour, I would create my own avalanche bulletin the night before my shift. During my day on the mountain I would prove or disprove my predictions on what the snowpack would do and what the CAC Bulletin might say. Only after I had gathered all of my own beta and made my own stability assessments, would I review the days CAC Bulletin and critique my accuracy.
Words by: Brent Hillier Photos by: Brent Hillier
Did you know that any guest of Whistler/Blackcomb can take a free avalanche awareness tour? This year I have the pleasure of being a part of this very cool program, and this past weekend all of the guides met for a day of skiing and training on Blackcomb.
Stories, Pictures and Video of all my adventures, on skis and bike.