Item: Experience and the perception of avalanche hazard
Title: Experience and the perception of avalanche hazard
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 1980 International Snow Science Workshop, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Authors: Ray Smutek, The Mountain School, Renton, WA.
Abstract: On March 3, 1979, fourteen members of a Seattle mountain climbing club set out for the summit of Suntop Mountain. As they neared the top, eight of them left the security of the trees and marched out together onto an open slope. A slab triggered and all eight were swept down the hill. Everyone in the party had attended the standard one hour avalanche lecture that is part of the club's "winter travel" course. Several were considered to be highly experienced winter mountaineers. The person breaking trail had been climbing for more than ten years. Interestingly, it was his third avalanche ride. On April 28, 1975, a mountaineering class from a local university assembled at Timberline on the old Mount St. Helens. The instructor, a climber of more than ten years experience, led them into the approaching storm in search of a site for their overnight snow camp. He selected a sheltered spot known as the Sugar Bowl, in the lee of a large, steep moraine. A spontaneous storm release avalanche killed five of his students. On January 16, 1974, two experienced instructors working for a large wilderness school took 15 students on a two-week long "expedition" into the Wyoming Tetons. Their immediate objective was Glacier Gulch, but they never got there. On the 5th day, while traversing a steep moraine, an avalanche overwhelmed the party, killing three. The Park Service Report described the leaders as "competent mountaineers" and considered the group "well led".
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Keywords: avalanche terrain, fatalities, hazard, forecasting, mountaineers, risk
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