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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ya, that was a bad idea...

Not cleaning a binding and boot I suspect ended in this rather spectacular, dangerous and likely totally unnecessary fall.
Season after season I see the same things happen while skiing with my groups.  Silly little mistakes that lift skiers seldom if ever worry about.  The one in particular that drives me crazy is popping a binding off on the first turn.  It is a Rookie mistake.   And easily avoidable if you are informed,  experienced or simply willing to pay attention. 
Doesn't matter if the walk is across the parking lot or a 1000 meter boot pack, the process of getting into your bindings should always be the same.  Clean off both boot and binding.  Better yet have a partner help you with it as required.  Trust your ski partners to help you do it right.  If you are using a tech binding the problem is worse than a alpine binding.  But neither binding style is immune to the effect of having foreign material, dirt, rocks or simply snow and ice in the binding or on the boot proper.
Ski bindings are not made to work with foreign material of any sort between boot and binding.  Get it wrong and the binding simple will not stay on.

This is a classic situation where you have to pay attention and cleaning your off boots.  Better yet, think of where you'll be putting on your skis and the platform required to do it all safely not just for you but for everyone in your group.
Don't let the terrain fool you.  Snow and ice can be just as bad as dirt and rocks when it comes to eliminating the security of a good ski binding.  Alpine ridge boot pack or a set of steel stairs.  The attention you pay on cleaning your boots and bindings should not change.

Experience tells  me most will have the ski skills for this this long before they have the courage.  And for good reason.

In my experience most will have the ski skills to ski difficult terrain long before they have the fundamental knowledge of how to do it safely.
Blowing out of the binding on the first turn is your, your partner's and your guide's fault.  Everyone is responsible for each other.  Do that in difficult terrain or a no fall zone and the  risks go up accordingly.  Like a bullet sent down range with the pull of a trigger, there are no "overs".  You don't get to call a mistake back in the mountains and wish it weren't so.  You live or die by your mistakes.
With tech bindings work your toe levers every time you click in to clean your pin holes.  Don't let the peer pressure of the group skiing off on step in alpine bindings rush you.  Pay attention to your own mounting platforms while attempting to get your skis on.  Be sure you are capable of cleaning your boots, clicking in and NOT loosing a ski all at the same time.
Listen to your own intuition.  If you think some of your partners decisions are questionable...they more than likely, areDo what you need to do, to be safe.  Be well aware of the consquences of your actions and that of your partners.
And the conservative line and in a conservative manner in the back country.  Or at the very least think about how hard it would be and how long it would take to get the biggest bozo in your group off the mountain and back to medical care if they missed the next huck and things went terribly wrong.  Can you solve that problem alone if it goes bad?  Or are you relying on others to prop your sorry ass up and get you out?   
That doesn't mean missing all the fun.  What is does mean is thinking about the result a nasty fall could mean. 
If you have no clue...and nothing wrong with that, ask questions.  Everyone started this stuff at the beginning of the book.  If you need the Cliffs notes versions, listen to those that do have a clue and then act accordingly.  It aint rocket science.  It is easy to be a quick study.
If you are skiing with a partner you owe them thinking ahead, for everyone's peace of mind and ultimately everyone's safety.
 Hopefully this is a better explanation.  Look closely at the photo then dbl click.   Guide is high right on the slope in a yellow jacket.  He is hiking to retrieve the first lost ski.  You can see it just left of the little snow ledge on the rock cliff.  A second ski is below him stuck in the snow left of another rock.  At the end of the slope, his client, in blue, recovering from what I'd suppose mentally at least (she was unhurt thankfully despite all the rocks on this slope) was a fairly traumatic fall.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what I'm looking at in the first photo?

Dane said...

The tiny blue blob in the bottom of the first photo is a skier who blew out of her bindings on the first turn off a steep cornice entry several hundred feet above. If you click on the photo you can see her back country ski guide hiking up hill to retrieve her first ski still stuck in the snow. The second ski is in between them yet. My guess is they didn't bother to clean her boots and bindings after a lengthy (hour+) boot pack on snow, ice, dirt and gravel. It would not be the first place a competent guide would bring a client. Binding adjustments and ski skill should have been well sorted prior to the cornice entry. A huge tumble down the run is a failure on the Guide's part as much is it is on the skier's IMO and is unacceptable in the back country from my stand point.

Jon said...

Isn't this a good example as to why safety straps are a good idea?

While the ski still would have come off, at least the skier could have put it back on. Imagine if the ski had gone off a cliff or down a crevasse!

Rob said...

"my groups"

Dane said...

Not sure what you are saying there Rob. Could well be just "my groups". But since it was a unknown to us guided client in the pictures that I used as an example seems like it is a common problem. I've see good skiers, aspirant guides, and a host of others all fail to clean bindings and boots and then loose a ski. It has happened in groups I am skiing with and seemingly common enough in other groups to mention it.