Saturday, February 11, 2006


Another day, another avalanche disaster!

I just read the news of a Michigan man, living in Alaska since 5 month (maybe fulfilling his dream to live up north) who died in an avalanche while snowshoeing.

What got me thinking was the last paragraph of that avalanche article where the member of the Alaskan Mountain Rescue Group, Bill Romberg, says:

“...the snowshoers carried no rescue gear, such as avalanche beacons, shovels or probes.”

Of course I don’t know the details what happened in that case. But in general, I expect to read news about avalanche accidents like this more often in the future.

Snowshoeing is becoming extremely popular, for good reasons. That results in a growing number of inexperienced people traveling in mountainous areas. They do so without proper gear (see above), without preparing themselves on how to choose a save route and behave in alpine areas.

And in case of an avalanche they don’t know what to do or don’t have the gear to act immediately. And that cost – no – wastes – lives.

Why “waste” live?

Because if both snowshoers would have been equiped with the right gear – avalanche beacon, shovel, probe – the Michigan snowshoer may have had a realistic chance to survive.

His friend would have had a good chance to locate him with the avalanche beacon and probe. And then dig him out and provide first aid.

Avalanche disasters are always extremely time sensitive. Nothing reduces the chances to survive more than a comrade is not able to help immediately.

More often than not it’s too late until the rescue service arives to search with dogs. I saw that too many times myself.