Bulletproof conditions in Tucks

By Matt Oakes | No affiliation

Date of Observation: March 14, 2020  12:30 PM
Location of Observation: Under the buttress skiers right of central gully.

Level of experience: 5 years in moderate to very difficult east coast terrain.
Equipment: splitboard crampons, crampons, ice axe, beacon, probe, shovel, radios, garmin in-reach, med-kit.
Courses: AAA Avy 1, AIARE rescue, Ski Mountaineer Course, WFR.
Snow conditions: very good crampon travel on very firm conditions. There was evidence of wet slides to skiers left and a large crown and run out on left gully. Some soft snow just under the buttress.

Chose this area for shelter, ease of transition, and safe runout incase of fall.

Skier in my group (2) made very delicate turns traversing into the skiers left old slide path to find some edge. He was 92% down when I made my first turns on my splitboard, axe in hand. I descended slowly on very hard almost un-edgable conditions for about 75-100ft. Made a small heel side jump turn and found un-edgable conditions. I lost my heel side edge and began to try to self arrest. Difficult on the heel side. When I did get purchase I was moving too fast and it actually yanked me and I lost my grip on my tool. Spun and was sliding down on my backpack. I stayed calm knowing the runout has no terrain traps and trying to spin could catch an edge and tomahawk me. I came to a stop unharmed and booted back up to my tool and then back down to my gear. Rode down and debriefed w my partner.

Bottom line conditions are rugged. Happy we picked a safe line w a proper run out. Should have down climbed. Self arrest is hard heel side on snowboards. Lesson learned.


ABOUT THESE OBSERVATIONS

Snowpack observations are one part of the complex puzzle which is your decision to enter avalanche terrain. Some observations may include stability tests. It’s important to understand that the results of a stability tests are seldom conclusive anywhere, but particularly in snow climates and terrain like ours where the primary driver of instabilities is wind drifted snow. Many stability tests exist and each works best with specific avalanche problem types. Stability test results should never be used alone as an indication that a slope or conditions are safe particularly when more obvious red flags are present. Please use this page as part of your information gathering process, but don’t make decisions based on a single piece of information. A good article that summarizes some of the issues associated with snow and avalanche observations can be found here.

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