Close call at Echo Peak. Moral: Keep your gloves on!

Posted on January 2nd, 2013 by | 3 Comments

This POV footage came from a companion rescue at last week at Echo Peak, Calif.:

The footage definitely drives home a couple of simple points: 1. Everyone in your group should have an avalanche beacon, avalanche shovel, and avalanche probe (and preferably an avalanche airbag). In this incident only two of the five riders had the gear, so you’ll see a lot of time was burned exchanging gear–and there was much fumbling around with the shovel blade since the rescuer couldn’t find the shaft. It’s great that two of these folks had proper equipment, but that’s not good enough! What if the buried person didn’t have a beacon? What if he was buried, but had the group’s only shovel? Fortunately, this incident worked out, but it could have had completely different results if he didn’t get his hand above the surface.

2. Don’t take off your gloves! We’ve seen this many times (especially in beacon search drills): folks will remove their gloves to get out their beacon, then leave them on the ground when they start the search process. Big mistake! You’re desperately going to need these for the shoveling phase, which can be very time consuming and very tough on ungloved hands. You will lose huge amounts of efficiency by not having your gloves. Sounds simple, but it’s a common mistake. Take note!

A full incident report can be found on the Sierra Avalanche Center website.

  • Nova

    So many more lessons to be learned that just keeping on the gloves and everyone having gear.

    1) There could have been three rescuers, but there was just one. The two others could’ve helped dig the person out with their gloved hands. Instead they just stood by and watched. Was one person actually sitting idly aside on the slope? The complacency was troubling.

    2) When the only rescuer was suffering from cold hands, the others could have taken over with the shovel blade. The rescue would have been much quicker.

    3) There was a steadiness to the original rescuer, which could be helpful to manage a stressed out group. However, he also did not convey a sense of urgency at the time it was necessary. To tell the woman with the beacon to take her time removing it was troubling.

    4) More troubling was that the beacon was removed and handed off in the first place. The one with the beacon should have immediately begun the search herself. In different circumstances, the wasted time handing off the search responsibility could have cost the victim his life.

    5) And urgency driving actions at the WRONG time. The extra 5-10 seconds to locate and attach the shovel shaft probably would have shaved minutes from the rescue time. So would have spending a few seconds putting on gloves once it was clear they were needed.

    We watched this video in our Avalanche Safety class this evening. The person who shared it is courageous for being willing to publish all of his mistakes – but hopefully knows that folks will learn from them before they are put to a real-life test.

    And happy for the victim that he was not injured badly or suffered a worse fate. Glad he survived!

  • Djcrewcab

    Guy in the red deserves a metal, guy sitting on his ass with his nice warm gloves needs a punch to the head for not helping.

  • vdonk

    lots of mistakes. upon reading the write up from the leader of the party (the one who was burried) i have one big question. the lady who originally had the gear was the only other person experienced in the backcountry in the party, so why didn’t she act? she stood there like a statue and let two inexperienced people fumble around with the rescue.