Saturday, September 29, 2012

POV Avy Footage: 2 1/2 Years Later!

As POV avy footage goes, this is good, although not outstanding:
(Jump to around 1:48 for the action.)

The amazing part though is that this incident occurred about two-and-a-half years ago:
The camera was found only just now, and not only was the footage able to be retrieved, but the camera also still works!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Avy Expert Dies at Avy Workshop -- Indoors

This has to be first, but in a horribly tragic way:  an attendee died at the 2012 International Snow Science Workshop, held this past week in Anchorage.

And not just any attendee, but the well-known and highly regarded Theo Meiners.

Tributes here (and probably many other places too very soon):

This appears to the most complete account of the cause:

Accident claims local ski legend

By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
September 22, 2012

Backcountry ski pioneer and longtime ski guide Theo Meiners died in a fall Thursday night in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Meiners was trying to ride down the handrails of an escalator in a downtown mall when he fell 60 feet to the ground, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said. 

Witnesses told police Meiners was drinking at a party earlier in the night, she said. 

The 30-year Jackson Hole guide and owner of Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides was in Anchorage attending the International Snow Science Workshop, Lammers said. 

Meiners, 59, was pronounced dead at the scene. Lammers said police believe he died in the fall. Foul play is not suspected, but the medical examiner will probably perform an autopsy in the next several days. 

Meiners had a long career in mountaineering and guiding. He worked as an instructor and guide for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Mountain Sports School every year since the winter of 1978-79. 

In Alaska, he worked for two well-known heli-ski companies. 

“Theo was a mentor for me both philosophically and technically,” mountain guide Tom Turiano said Friday afternoon. “He maintained his passion for mountaineering and skiing longer than anyone I know.” 

Turiano is the author of “Teton Skiing — A History and Guide.” As discoverer of the “Arch” couloir and a major participant in the skiing world of the mid-1980s, Meiners is mentioned several times in that book. 

Employees at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort credited Meiners on Friday as a pioneer and a mentor. 

Resort President Jerry Blann said the resort family is saddened by Meiners’ death. 

“He brought skill and experience when both teaching and guiding, and, just as important, he brought enthusiasm and passion to everything that involved his true loves, the mountains and skiing,” Blann said in an email. “He will be missed.”

In a statement passed on through friends, Meiners’ family said they are setting up an avalanche awareness fund in his name and requested that all memorials be made in the form of donations. Details on the fund will be released when they are final.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Massive Avy on Manaslu

Even by the horrific standards of horribly large and destructive avalanches in the Himalayas, this one sounds especially horrific -- here's a relatively current and complete report:

The confirmed (?) death toll appears to be nine so far, with possibly more to be added.

The avalanche apparently was caused by serac fall, and hit very early in the morning, when all the victims were still in camp.

This account from survivor Glen Plake is especially harrowing:

"It was 4:45a and I was in my sleeping bag with my headlamp on reading my devotional when we heard a roar. Greg looked at me and said, “That was a big gust of wind,” then a second later, “No, that was an avalanche.” Then it hit us. I was swept 300 meters over a serac and down the mountain and came to a stop still in my sleeping bag, still inside the tent, still with my headlamp on. We all went to sleep with avalanche transceivers on so I punched my way out of the tent and started searching. I searched for 10 minutes before I realized I was barefoot in the snow."

(And yes, Glen Plake, despite being known mainly for resort-based showmanship, has been an accomplished ski mountaineer for many years, long before its current popularity.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! - Part 3

As I previously wrote, the review quiz for my ski patrol Mountain Travel & Rescue Course includes three questions with the theme of “Lions and Tiger and Bears, Oh My!” -- or, when animals attack:
  1. type of North American animal attack with the most emergency room visits;
  2. type of North American animal attack with the most human deaths; and,
  3. type of Northeastern U.S. animal attack with the most incidents of potentially highly adverse health effects.
Students tend to put down all sorts of terrifying species -- e.g., snakes -- for any or even all of these questions, even though the correct answers involve far less "impressive" animal species.

I can't recall though if anyone has ever put down moose, or more specifically, brain-worm-affected moose:

Manic moose in Vermont rampage; brain worm is to blame, says game warden

Vermonter Brent Olsen awoke Sunday to find a bull moose messing with his car. He tried to get the moose away, but went for his camcorder when he noticed the moose's erratic, and then violent, behavior, which he later learned was a symptom of brain worm.

Comments (6)


Brent Olsen, of Westford, Vt., was spooked when he found a deranged moose on his property.

A Vermont man’s encounter with a manic moose started off “cute,” but ended in horror as the animal had to be put down by a state game warden.
Brent Olsen of Westford awoke Sunday to find a bull moose with its hoof on his car. He tried to shoo him away, he told CBS affiliate WCAX.
“I started hollering at it, ‘Do not jump on my car, Mr. Moose!” Olsen said.
He soon became fascinated and clutched a camcorder to tape the creature’s erratic behavior — which appeared as if he were inebriated.
“A moose with ivy in its horns — I thought it was kind of cute.” he told WCAX.
But Olsen quickly changed his tune when the beast — which typically weighs more than 800 pounds — bolted toward him.
“It scared the crap out of me,” he added.
The video shows the moose charging Olsen, who flew out of the way. At another point, the animal is seen walking in circles, even bumping into a flag pole.
Olsen said the moose rammed into his home four times before a state game warden arrived.


So why was he acting out?
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Lt. Curtis Smiley told WCAX the moose was exhibiting symptoms of brain worm, a parasite that lives in grazing mammals.
“I have never seen a moose act like that,” Smiley said.


In the end, officials decided to shoot the moose.
“Very sad to see a beautiful, healthy animal suffer from something like this,” Olsen said.


Brain worm in moose is not uncommon. At Acadia National Park in Maine, park biologist Bruce Conner told that the animals have been found after falling off cliffs or getting hit by cars.
“The ones that had accidents and died may have been infected with brain worm,” Connery said. “That makes animals do irrational things.”

Read more:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dramatic Rescue on Franconia Ridge

Lt. James Kneeland: 603-271-3361
Lt. Dave Eskeland: 603-271-3127
September 19, 2012

Injured Michigan Hiker Rescued on Franconia Ridge

CONCORD, N.H. – Heroic efforts by search teams working through the night, enduring high winds and torrential downpours, rescued an injured Michigan hiker stranded on the Franconia Ridge Trail in New Hampshire's White Mountains on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. 
Fifty-nine year old Edward Bacon of Northville, Michigan, was on the third day of a five-day solo trek in and around Franconia Notch, N.H., when he fell Tuesday afternoon and seriously injured his hip at about 1:30 p.m.  Bacon crawled to an area where he was able to get brief cell phone reception and called both 911 and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Lodge in Pinkham Notch.  He was equipped with backpacking gear, although his tent had blown away in the fierce winds. Bacon was able to climb into his sleeping bag to stay warm, as he was becoming hypothermic from being rain-soaked and pummeled by winds while awaiting rescuers.
AMC initially sent out a rescuer from the Greenleaf Hut to try to find Bacon, but high winds forced that individual to turn back. A second team of two AMC staffers set out and were able to navigate the ridge to Bacon's location (between Lincoln and Haystack), reaching him about 6:20 p.m.  Shortly thereafter, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers and Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team volunteers reached the injured man.
Fish and Game coordinated the 3.9-mile carryout over rough terrain in winds sustained at 70 mph, with gusts over 80 mph. Bacon was secured on a litter for his trip down the mountain. About 10 p.m., the steady rain became a torrential downpour as the rescuers worked to get the injured hiker down the Falling Waters Trail, a route normally recommended only for ascending the mountain because of its steepness. The heavy rain immediately swelled rivers and streams in the area, and Mountain Rescue Service volunteers arrived to assist with several difficult brook crossings on the way down, using ropes to help the teams cross safely.
Rescuers reached the trailhead with the injured man at 3:20 a.m. on September 19.  Bacon was then transported by Franconia Ambulance to Littleton Regional Hospital.
"I want to commend the Herculean effort of all the participating search teams working through the night in very difficult conditions and rugged terrain to carry this man to safety.  Most likely, they saved his life," said Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland.hikeSafe Program logo
Kneeland noted that conditions are changing fast in New Hampshire's mountains.  Thedays are rapidly becoming shorter, and hikers are advised to carry lights, extra clothing and appropriate gear for a variety of weather conditions, especially at higher altitudes.  It is also critical to check on and heed weather forecasts before heading out. Learn about safe hiking, including the ten essentials to have in your pack, at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! - Part 2

As I previously wrote, the review quiz for my ski patrol Mountain Travel & Rescue Course includes three questions with the theme of “Lions and Tiger and Bears, Oh My!” -- or, when animals attack:
  1. type of North American animal attack with the most emergency room visits;
  2. type of North American animal attack with the most human deaths; and,
  3. type of Northeastern U.S. animal attack with the most incidents of potentially highly adverse health effects.
Students tend to put down all sorts of terrifying species -- e.g., snakes -- for any or even all of these questions, even though the correct answers involve far less "impressive" animal species.

However, locale-specific knowledge is of course important, so beware of deadly creatures like the copperhead snake when visiting exotic locations such as . . . Mt Tom?

As if the mere presence of a copperhead snake at Mt Tom wasn't already terrifying enough, a hiker was indeed bitten, and treated with anti-venom at Bay State Hospital (site of Micayla's birth, toddler hernia operation, and -- most relevant to the current topic -- the only Level 1 trauma center in Western Mass).

And for the win, after being bitten, the hiker captured the snake and brought it down with him so that it could be identified (presumably by specifies, as opposed to whether it was a repeat offender or out on parole or something).

In case you were wondering, according to the City of Holyoke police, this is officially a Bad Idea (for reasons that should be obvious . . . to everyone except the hiker apparently).

Then again, I suppose none of this is all that surprising given the many extreme aspects of Mt Tom:  typical ski outing below (from February 8, 2011).

Holyoke hiker captures venomous copperhead snake that bit him; turns snake over to authorities

A hiker in western Massachusetts was bitten by a venomous snake Saturday evening, then caught the snake and brought it to authorities, according to Holyoke Police.
The man was bitten on his leg by a copperhead at Mount Tom State Reservation in Holyoke just after 5 p.m. Saturday, said Holyoke Police Lieutenant Larry Cournoyer.
After being bitten, the man “collected the snake and carried it down from where he was walking” so Animal Control authorities could identify it, Cournoyer said.
After the snake was identified as a copperhead, the hiker was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he was treated with the appropriate anti-venom, Cournoyer said.
Police do not know the man’s age or where he lives.
Although copperhead snakes are indigenous to the area, Cournoyer said local reports of copperhead bites are rare, adding that he could not recall any similar incidents in his 25 years as a police officer.
“It was cold last night, and snakes aren’t quite as active when they’re colder, so I’m assuming he stepped on the snake, which is easy to do in the woods due to the camouflaging nature of the snake,” Cournoyer said.
However, Cournoyer said capturing the snake, which put the hiker in danger of being bitten again, was a bad idea.
“You can use your cellphone and photograph the reptile so you don’t risk injury by messing with snakes,” Cournoyer said.
He said that copperhead venom is not typically fatal, especially with easy access to hospitals and anti-venoms, but said that the hiker could have become increasingly sick if he had not been treated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, with about five cases turning fatal.
Symptoms of venomous bites include pain and swelling at the wound, nausea and vomiting, labored breathing, blurred vision, increased salivation and sweating, and tingling or numbness in the face and limbs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Earliest Avy Bulletin Ever?

September 2012
Forecast valid until updated

MODERATE where the new snow is wind drifted in the upper elevations
click for danger scale
DANGER TREND: The danger is steady. Expect to trigger windslabs. There have been a few new snow point release avalanches to size 1.5 that have traveled 500 feet or more.
WEATHER: As winter approaches, the weather systems coming off the Gulf of Alaska are more organized and intense producing moist coastal air which comes into contact with below freezing air out of the interior and blanketing the mountains with new snow.
TRAVEL ADVISORY: The danger is only in the upper elevations, above 3500 feet. Unsuspecting hikers have been swept away, buried and killed by "termination dust".
AVALANCHE DISCUSSION: The six inches of rainfall in Valdez during the first week of September fell as snow in the upper elevations. There are new snow drifts six to ten feet deep above 4000 feet elevation.
A lot of last winter's exceptionally deep snowfall remains unmelted in the upper elevations. There is still snow along the road over Thompson Pass (2678' elevation). A number of the avalanche start zones and gullies are already smoothed over with old snow. Where old snow remains there is not the surface roughness which holds the season's new snow to the mountains. Also, where the old snow remains, there is less ground surface roughness reducing the runout of early season avalanches.
Post your observations <here>.
Avalanches are sized using the destructive scale <here>.
 24 Hour 
Season Total

Snow climate zones:
  1. Maritime (Coastal) - from the Port of Valdez to Thompson Pass, all waters flowing into Valdez Arm and everything south of Marshall Pass.
  2. Inter-mountain (Transitional) - between Thompson Pass and Rendezvous Lodge.
  3. Continental (Interior) - the dry north side of the Chugach (north of 46 Mile, including the Tonsina River).
Lower - below 1500 feet
Mid - between 1500 and 3000 feet
Upper - above 3000 feet