Level 1 Avy Class, WPSP

It was hard to believe the first week of February was here, but it was, and it was time for level 1 avalanche class at Willamette Pass. This year’s class had 6 students, and we had several instructors to cover the large quantity of material required by NSP to meet the 32 hour requirement. With the classroom sessions already in the books, our group met on Saturday the 4th at 8:00 and headed to the top of EPA shortly thereafter to begin fieldwork with beacon practice. We staged off of Boundary, and I snapped a few photos of the action, including patrol heading by us to open Peak 2…

Patrol heading back to open Peak 2
Students learning to follow flux lines

After a couple hours of beacon work, including small group rescue, we skied down Boundary to the back of Lighthouse Knob for some stability tests. Students dug pits and performed shovel shear, compression and extended column tests. We even threw a Rutschblock test in for good measure. The tests yielded some interesting information. With about 6 inches of snow on top of a crust layer, we found failures on the compression tests after 6-8 taps. Extended column tests failed, but didn’t propagate…

Stability testing

After the snowpit tests, the students did some more beacon work and I slipped away for a few runs in the fresh snow during lunch. The turns on Peak 2 were excellent. Below is a shot of Laurie on Boundary after we finished the stability tests…

Laurie on Boundary

After lunch, it was time for spot and formal probing. Laurie, Matthew and Joe had setup a nice simulated avalanche, and the students spent some time tromping around the slide, probing clues and likely catchment areas. After they’d exhausted spot probing, it was time for an organized probe line….

Marking clues
Organized probe line work

Once the probe work was done, we finished the day off on the frontside doing small group rescue. Working our way down Eagle’s Flight, the students alternated hiding beacons, then finding them and digging them up. Looking out from Eagle’s, I noticed Odell Lake was starting to ice up, something I haven’t seen in the last several years…

Looking out to Odell Lake

Back down at the aid room, it was time for a well deserved beer. Dan and I headed out around 5:30 and made our way to the cabin. There was over 3 feet of snow on the cabin roof, and the weight of snow on the roof made it difficult to close the cabin door:) After starting a fire and getting our gear drying, we made the short drive down 58 to Manley’s for dinner. A cheeseburger and margarita hit the spot, and then it was time to head back to the cabin for the evening. The next morning came quickly, and we took the class out to do an actual avy route on Peak 2. Here’s a shot of the students and instructors before dropping into Dragon’s…

The class and instructors

After showing the students the ropes (literally) and ski cutting some of the sketchier slopes on belay, we skied the meadow and broke out into small group for touring, which included route selection, stability testing, beacon searching, etc. I was tasked with getting the final scenario ready, so I hit up a few runs out of bounds with Dan before getting to my duties. Around 10:30, we geared up to get the scenario ready. Here’s a shot of Dan and Matthew, who helped set up the scenario, at the top of EPA…

Dan & Matthew atop EPA

Setting up the “scenario” includes trampling up some of the best snow on SDN, about 70 yards long and 25 yards wide. Trying to simulate an actual avalanche, we stomped out a crown, flanks, and a big toe at the bottom. Then we put out several “victims” including two deep burial beacons, and three other buried carpeted boards in various places in the slide to be found by either spot probing or probe line. Several clues complete the scenario. Around 1:00, we met the class at the top of Peak 2 and it was game time. Laurie led the scenario, and an hour later, the class had found all the victims using the skills gained over the weekend.

The final scenario

We were done by 2:45, including debrief, and it was time to finish the weekend off with some turns down through some of the best tree runs in Oregon. Brian joined me, and we made 4 or 5 laps in the soft snow of SDN. Each run was excellent, and I snapped a few photos of Brian in action….

Brian ripping the trees
Last run

Our last run right before sweep was the best of the day, and a perfect way to cap off a great weekend of training and riding. I’m already looking forward to more pow turns at the Pass!