IN THE FIELD: MANAGING THE SLOPE IN FRONT OF YOU
AT THE TOP OR BOTTOM OF THE SLOPE YOU PLAN TO TRAVEL UP OR DOWN, REASSESS THE SITUATION ONE LAST TIME BY TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE SNOW AND WEATHER CONDITIONS, THE TERRAIN, AND THE GROUP.
You ultimately have three choices you can make: turn around, avoid the slope, or commit. Discuss the risks with everyone in your group, express your concerns, and provide clear safety guidelines and rules for moving the group.
Here is a reminder of the factors to consider when assessing slope stability :
- • Avalanche danger level based on slope angle.
- • Snowpack, humidification, more than 30cm of new snow, snow accumulations due to wind.
- • Ressent avalanche activity.
- • Visibility.
There are tools to help you assess the situation based on your observations. The NivoTest, developed by R. Bolognesi, can help you to reassess the avalanche danger based on terrain clues. It is also available as a smartphone application.
Identify the potential consequences and outcomes of an avalanche before deciding whether or not to ascend/descend a given slope. Take the danger level and slope angle into consideration to choose the most appropriate line of travel. Identify any terrain traps.
- Obstacles (rocks, trees, cliffs…) = injuries.
- Bottom of the slope (holes, creeks, crevasses…) = deep burial.
- Identify those areas protected from any potential slides, also referred to as islands of safety.
On the ascent, to reduce the level of risk, make one set of tracks and maintain the right distance between group members based on the terrain. On the descent, like on the climb, descend one by one through critical sections of the slope, and travel from one island of safety to the next.