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Backcountry skiing in a Covid world

#21
~1500 on a good spring day. Not sure about yesterday’s conditions. The podcast made the weather seem meh.
I think everyone is just concentrating in less areas than usual because of everything being closed down. This includes skiers, hikers, snowshoers, beach walkers, bikers, skaters, etc. The same discussion is playing itself out on pretty much every Facebook group page involving these hobbies.. and they are not nearly as civil as here I’d say, most are downright nasty.. I heard there were WAY more people at Wachusett yesterday than they are reporting at Mount Washington, like scary crowded. Yesterday’s weather was nice, comfortable warmth (~low 50s by 1pm and snow was soft with many areas having gotten a good amount of fresh snow earlier last week), obviously depends where exactly people are and what that local snowpack has been doing with the freeze/thaw cycles playing out in New England right now. Mount Washington seems to have its own weather pattern all together most of the time, so not totally sure there.
 
#22
Follow up to this: Tuckerman's will likely CLOSE tomorrow. Go here.
Last Avalanche Bulletin was issued this morning...

The Bottom Line

This is the final bulletin published by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center for the 2019-2020 winter season. It will remain in effect until complete melt out. Travel in the backcountry requires careful snow evaluation and mountain sense. Hazards due to snow and ice will persist until both are gone. Avalanches can and do occur in April and May. Make use of available PPE such as crampons, ice axes, helmets, and avalanche rescue gear. If venturing into the mountains, be sure to use all available resources to help plan your trip and make safe travel decisions.

A section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is now closed to all use. This section extends from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall, where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail. The closure includes skiing and riding the Lip and Sluice. This annual closure (36CFR261.55(a)) is designed to protect the public and rescuers from the hazards associated with the waterfall and crevasses which are just beginning to emerge. Violating this closure is a misdemeanor offense and will be enforced. Additionally, all facilities that provide amenities for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine are now closed. This includes bathrooms, camping, and all shelter.
 
#23
Last Avalanche Bulletin was issued this morning...

The Bottom Line

This is the final bulletin published by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center for the 2019-2020 winter season. It will remain in effect until complete melt out. Travel in the backcountry requires careful snow evaluation and mountain sense. Hazards due to snow and ice will persist until both are gone. Avalanches can and do occur in April and May. Make use of available PPE such as crampons, ice axes, helmets, and avalanche rescue gear. If venturing into the mountains, be sure to use all available resources to help plan your trip and make safe travel decisions.

A section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is now closed to all use. This section extends from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall, where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail. The closure includes skiing and riding the Lip and Sluice. This annual closure (36CFR261.55(a)) is designed to protect the public and rescuers from the hazards associated with the waterfall and crevasses which are just beginning to emerge. Violating this closure is a misdemeanor offense and will be enforced. Additionally, all facilities that provide amenities for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine are now closed. This includes bathrooms, camping, and all shelter.
So I originally read the reports yesterday as saying that recreating on Mount Washington as a whole was closing. This seems to indicate it’s only specific areas? Feels more confusing that way.
 
#24
So I originally read the reports yesterday as saying that recreating on Mount Washington as a whole was closing. This seems to indicate it’s only specific areas? Feels more confusing that way.
Based on the podcast posted earlier, they said that the avalanche bulletin would be ending Sunday, and closures would probably happen by the end of the week. So I suspect this is just the start of it.

The part of the trail they closed is the area most prone to crevasses, slides and falling ice. It's a section of trail they regularly close every spring once the snow pack starts to dwindle. Probably just the first step to prevent injury and the need for rescues.
 
#25
Based on the podcast posted earlier, they said that the avalanche bulletin would be ending Sunday, and closures would probably happen by the end of the week. So I suspect this is just the start of it.

The part of the trail they closed is the area most prone to crevasses, slides and falling ice. It's a section of trail they regularly close every spring once the snow pack starts to dwindle. Probably just the first step to prevent injury and the need for rescues.
Gotcha! Hopefully people are paying attention to all of this stuff! I’ve never skied Mount Washington, and this certainly isn’t the time I’d be venturing out there without any familiarity whatsoever. I’m not sure that’s stopping everyone in the same situation, though hopefully it is for most. It’s a dangerous spot in the best of times with every available resource.
 

Abbi

Angel Diva
#29
These kinds of stories make me mad and tearful, too. The generosity of all who tried to help and probably didn’t think about potential risk to themselves is amazing. And heart wrenching that they might have been exposed. Having fun is wonderful. Making it dangerous for someone else, not so much.
 
#30
I know it's been sooo tempting to go out here, but I've refrained. I'm a manager, team leader, etc. in my local SAR team, and we've been issued a whole bunch of guidelines about how to protect ourselves if we need to respond. My team has exactly ten N95 masks in our stock, and that's only thanks to a donation from our local major industry, so if they get used they won't get replaced. Our team is 25 people total, a bunch of whom are at work at any given time, and we have 4 people currently self-isolating (myself included) at the instruction of public health. We've been instructed to prioritize helicopter response if possible to put less people in the field, but you can't physically distance in a helicopter. I won't mention the additional strain on medical personnel other than to say - the emergency department in my town is *closing* on Wed due to the virus. That doesn't say anything good about the state of things, and my town only has one confirmed case (and as far as I know it's the only one in the valley).

So the short version is - if we need to respond, we're going to be slower than usual, maybe with less people than usual, and a single response could then make us non-operational completely due to lack of PPE or exposure of our members who then have to self-isolate for 2 weeks.

Please, just go for a walk somewhere close to home. At least then if you sprain an ankle we're not looking at a big overnight operation to get you out!!
 
#32
@former-boarder @Ringrat is there any discussion of SAR just not responding to calls? I'm thinking about how many people have to put themselves at risk to go help one person.
Not in BC. Lots of internal discussion among the 1500 or so of us about how teams are assessing risk and making decisions, but there is no official shutdown of services, and I don't know of any teams that have stood down. My team was non-operational for a few days while we begged for masks locally, but we got a few so are back up and running. The next team over would have responded in that case. SAR has been named an essential service in BC as part of the first responder category, so I don't see a shutdown of service happening on a provincial level.

On the bright side, responses were down 45% last week from the same week last year, so people seem to be getting the message.
 

former-boarder

Diva in Training
#33
Not in my unit either. Response at the individual level is always voluntary, so if we don't feel as though we can take the personal risk, we're not pressured to respond. There has been talk about whether we'd provide out-of-county assistance, though (sometimes we're called to help neighboring counties when they need additional resources.)
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#34
I've seen an absolutely maddening number of skiers on facebook talking about how no one is going to stop them from backcountry skiing no matter what, and how they should just let people ski, but stop doing search and rescue. (Or how they're JUST going to go camping to mountain bike somewhere...)

And I think you know - that's not how things work, really. Sure, YOU can say, I'm doing what I want. Just don't come rescue me if something happens. Like it's just as easy as that. You break your leg up there and your friends and family and the people on the SAR teams will just easily say cool, whatever. Let him die up there. We'll just go pick up his remains once this is all over with. THAT won't be unnecessarily traumatic for anyone.... Or cause a whole bunch of people to risk exposing themselves trying to do a rescue, whether you wanted it or not.

Or the people who say, "But I'm being CAREFUL!" Oh, well then. I was thinking there was a reason they were called "accidents", but maybe everyone else who has ever been injured skiing was just out trying to injure themselves that day...

I also hear a lot of the argument that you can get hurt walking around the block.... Yep, you can. But I've had a torn meniscus in the backcountry, leaving me with a leg I couldn't straighten or bear weight on. It was a nightmare to get me out of, skiing and hopping on one leg, and required help from friends literally dragging me up every little incline, even though we made it out without calling for professional help. Same injury while walking around the block? Not really a big deal.... I could hop my butt back to the sofa. Crawl if I needed to - not even remotely the same as being stuck on the side of a mountain.

Some people just have so little forethought, so much insane overconfidence in themselves, and so little concern for how their actions affect others. It's truly maddening.
 
#35
It’s official now. Tucks is closed. Along with the vast majority of the east side of Mt. Washington.

“Please do your part and stay near home, hike in the woods, run a new route, or take up that project you’ve been putting off. The mountains have been around for a long time and will be here when life returns to normal. Thanks again for your cooperation as we navigate these rough waters.“

For full report and map of closures:
https://mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/end-of-the-season-and-closures/
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#36
Update from the Tetons. A young man's body was recovered today after he died in an avalanche he triggered yesterday. It took multiple searchers, unable to follow proper distancing protocol, dogs and a helicopter, an afternoon and full morning to locate the victim. Even though they requested that people not recreate until the rescue was completed, there were multiple skiers/boarders visible on the Teton pass webcam this morning. My heart aches for the young man's family, and it also aches for the many rescuers who had to place themselves at double risk (avalanche/covid 19) for this operation. https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news...cle_0a00f277-df85-50b3-96b6-11a7afb62b37.html
 
#37
It makes clear why they are closing parks, beaches, and even parking lots where people launch these activities. Trying to get people to stop putting themselves and others at great risk.
 

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