Safety. Priority no. 1 every time you go out of the marked slopes or up in the mountains. There are objective and subjective dangers. In this article, we will reveal both groups of threats.
Objective dangers are avalanches, snow cornices, glacier crevasses, seracs, bad weather, fog, wind. Subjective threats are those on which we have influence. Such as physical and psychological readiness, ignorance and underestimation of one's own abilities, inappropriate equipment, and inappropriate friends. People also need to know what to do in case of an accident, how to move in the mountains, and how to use the equipment that they own.
Avalanches: They are always triggered by external factors such as, for example, sudden excessive water collection due to heavy precipitation (rain or snow), a sudden increase in temperature, falling rocks and/or ice, an additional load of snow due to human weight (skier, mountaineer). We know 4 types of avalanches.
- Wet avalanches
- Dry (powder) avalanches
- Dry slab avalanches
- Loose snow avalanches
Snow cornices: An overhanging edge of snow on a ridge or the crest of a mountain and along the sides of gullies. They are formed by the wind blowing over the sharp breaks, where it attaches and builds out horizontally. Cornices are extremely dangerous and traveling above or below them should be avoided.
Glacier crevasses: A deep crack, or fracture, found in an ice sheet or glacier. Crevasses form as a result of the glacier movement. They often have vertical or near-vertical walls, which can then melt and create seracs, arches, and other ice formations. Anyone planning to travel on a glacier should be trained in crevasse rescue.
Seracs: A block or column of glacial ice, often formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier. Commonly house-sized or larger, they are dangerous to mountaineers, since they may topple with little warning. Even when stabilized by persistent cold weather, they can be an impediment to glacier travel.
Bad weather: Sudden weather changes, temperature drop, snowing, wind, fog, etc.
Physical and psychological readiness: It is important that you and your group are physically well prepared for the activities you want to perform. How long will the approach be, inclination, type of snow, is there any climbing involved, etc. And psychologically, your head must be "stable". If there is steep icy terrain, you need to know what to do, without any panicking. If something is too much for your level, turn around and don't push the limits. Especially on terrain where fall or any other mistake could be fatal.
Ignorance and underestimation of one's own abilities: The next serious danger that comes to us is the lack of information and the underestimation of the route. Before going on a tour, gather as much information as possible about directions and problems that await you. Ask friends, check on the web.
Inappropriate equipment: When skiing on easy terrain it’s hard to have the wrong equipment. Maybe skis with 115mm under ski boot would be more appropriate than 95 mm. But that is just bad luck. More important is that the equipment you’ll use is in perfect condition, without any damage, and is appropriate for the tour in the plan. Ice ax on a powder day won't be much of a help.
Inappropriate friends: Just like you, they also need all the equipment and knowledge to navigate safely through the day. Rescue maneuvers in case of an accident, first aid, map reading, etc.
Writen by: Jan Palovsnik, freeride skier