NOLS WOE Tetons Ski Mountaineering Expedition: Day 18 – Test Pits

A clear but col day today. We spent most of the day near camp digging snow analysis pits and practicing avalanche transceiver search techniques. Notes:

  • Cold cold cold today. Despite perfect blue skies, the temperature plummeted. My toes never warmed up in my constrictive telemark boots, and I was forced to come back to camp mid-morning to manually rewarm my toes. The alternative was frostbite and potential loss of feeling in my toes forever – not good. Staying on top of and preventing cold injuries out here is an ongoing prime objective.
  • One of the tools we use to determine if a hill is going to avalanche is a test pit. This pit dig into the snow allows us to look at various layers of snow and determine the overall snowpack composition and strength.
  • I dug multiple snow pits today on both steep slopes as well as more flat areas. It’s interesting to see the difference in snowpack composition between various geographical features. The effects of wind loading are also readily apparent.
  • Back at camp, I worked with Pedro on multiple burial avalanche victim recovery. The actual techniques are fairly simple. What really takes time is getting the feel for the avalanche transceiver and how it interprets the radio homing signal. The radio flux line path it takes you in on sometimes feels counterintuitive, and it takes a while to figure out the quirks of each system. We use Tracker dts units.
  • After dinner tonight we had a big group fire, and now sleep.
  • Tomorrow I’m leading a group ski tour around some local terrain.