February 13, 2022 – Avalanche Refresher & a Little Opera

Another week on patrol, and another week of no precipitation across the west coast. The number of days it has actually snowed during this season can nearly be counted on one hand. Nevertheless, I headed up to the Pass with Shaun for a day of patrol. We pulled into the patrol parking lot early, and before long it was time for the morning meeting. After discussing the day’s activities, several of us headed out for an avalanche refresher led by Hutch.

Hutch leading the avy talk at base

We started off at the base of EPA with a discussion about the rope, harness, belay setup, etc., and then moved up top once the lift started spinning.

Continuing the discussion up top

A bit later, when we had discussed running the route, it was time to head to Peak 2 and actually run the route. The hike to the top went quickly, and soon we were skiing down to June’s Run and then walking the ridge line out to the nose. The lack of snow along the normal route was pretty stunning.

Talking it over on Dragon’s
Heading to the Nose

Once we reached the nose, we set the belay up and talked through how we cut the cornices and windslab that builds up around the nose. From the nose, we moved down the ridge to then second belay point, setting up the belay once more and discussing how to make appropriate ski cuts in avalanche conditions when the slopes are loaded. Finally, we worked our way out into the meadow below, skiing from island of safety to island of safety, and then down to the bottom.

Setting up the belay on the Nose
The crew in the meadow

After running the route, I took a lap or two on Peak 2 to enjoy the snow, and then headed down to the base for a lunch break.  At the car, I couldn’t resist pulling out my beer for the day — a Stash Bandicoot Hazy Imperial IPA from Hop Valley Brewing — but just to take a picture. Enjoying it would have to wait until the end of the day.

The Pass from the base
Stash Bandicot from Hop Valley

After lunch, I headed back up to the top of EPA to check on some OEC training that was going on. Gretchen was working on leading a femur fracture scenario, and Fischer and Tyler were assisting, with Laurie supervising. Things appeared to be going pretty well, so I then headed out for a couple of laps before meeting at the top of Peak 2 to supervise some sled training with Ian and the sled candidates.

Gretchen leading a femur fracture scenario

When I arrived at the top of Peak 2, Ian informed me they were hoping to do a full scenario, including a mock injury, treating the patient, loading the patient into the sled, and then running the loaded sled down June’s to the base of Peak 2.

Patrick and Ben treating Gretchen, with Anna holding the sled

It was fun to watch the sled candidates apply all the training they had been doing over the year, including discussing where to park the sled, applying the necessary OEC treatment, and then loading the patient into the sled before ultimately wrapping them up and heading down the mountain. Overall they did a great job!

Talking over how to load the patient
Anna holding the sled

After a bit of discussion and trouble shooting, they were able to get Gretchen in the sled without issue, and the ride down to the bottom of Peak 2 was smooth and easy. The overall progression of Anna, Ben and Patrick on the sleds has been great, and the following weekend (after running the RTS Belay Sled), they became full fledged alpine patrollers!

Anna and Ben heading down with Gretchen
Ian and Laurie talking over the entire scenario

With all the day’s activities, the hour was getting late and it was almost time for Peak 2 sweep. I met up with Shaun, and we were able to ski a few runs on together on Peak 2. Our final run before sweep was on Destiny, and I was able to grab a few photos of him as we headed down…

Shaun on Destiny
Heading down for Peak 2 sweep

Peak 2 sweep went off without a hitch, and soon it was approaching the end to another day of patrolling. Clouds were starting to move in as well, which hinted at the slightest possible change in the weather pattern.

Peak 2 Sweep Crew

We loaded the Peak 2 chair, rode to the top, and headed to EPA for upper mountain sweep. The light on Diamond Peak was looking really pretty, and I was able to snap a few pictures before we started sweep, including the shot above as well as the one below framed by a chair from EPA.

Diamond framed in an EPA chair

While I was taking pictures, Gretchen began belting out Happy Birthday to Kyle…..in Opera. It was Kyle’s birthday — all the lifties had let us know about it earlier, and everyone stood there in awe. Gretchen absolutely rocked it, and at the end there was a big round of applause. In all the years I’ve been on patrol, this was one of the coolest moments in recent memory.

Gretchen singing Happy Birthday in Opera

After the opera show, it was time for upper mountain sweep, which went off without a hitch. Lower mountain sweep went without incident as well, and finally it was time to enjoy that beer in the parking lot after we cleared the mountain and held our evening meeting.

Stash Bandicoot

Even in the midst of ridiculously long extended ridge of high pressure, it was still a really good day on the mountain, and I’m looking forward to getting back up again soon. Here’s a parting shot from the day of Shaun skiing down Destiny…

Shaun cruising down Destiny