|Originally posted by ryan:
"coffee can-size explosive hand charge"
"105mm recoilless rifle - it looks like a cannon"
Any other ordnance that comes to mind, and/or first or second-hand anecdotes about avy control, is welcome, as I'm working on something and will take all the information I can get.
You're coming to the Gathering, aren't you?
If you do, you have to come to our place and see our kitchen clock. It's made from the shell casing of a 105mm recoilless rife round. One of the JH patrollers made it for us years ago. It's very cool. Engraved on it is:
105 MM, M-32
Lot SVR - 1 - 50
It's one of my most prized possessions. I've been lucky enough to watch a few times from the top of JH while they fired the recoilless across at Cody Bowl. I even have some very old 8mm home movie footage of it (you can actually watch the shot heading out). Boys love explosions.
As for ordnance, I assume you know about the hand-charge pulleys that are in use at many areas? You hang a charge from the cable, slide/reel it out to just above the trigger zone, and "boom".
Also, the Jackson Hole patrol used to have a 135mm howitzer they kept at the base for those days when it was too dangerous to put anybody anywhere on the hill without controlling a couple of things. That's what triggered the biggest in-resort slide in the history of the JH ski area.
I'm going to tell the story just because of the memories...
In late February of 1986, a monster storm came across northern California and absolutely clobbered Jackson Hole. Ruth and I (and our golden retriever) were renting a house at Teton Village that winter, almost at the base of Tramline run.
On day 1 of the storm, I was guiding (my client was Peter Shelton, who's since made a living writing for all the ski magazines). It was very windy and just puking snow, so we were inbounds because it was already way too dangerous outside the boundary ropes. We had a great day.
It snowed hard all that night with the wind howling. By the next morning, the ski patrol had decided there was almost nothing on the mountain that could even be *controlled* safely, much less opened for skiing. In an attempt to at least open the Apres Vous lift, they did a bombing route in the Moran Woods area, looker's right from the top of the Casper chair. Moran Woods had been known to avalanche, but only in very extreme conditions and only with very minor slides.
Tommy Raymer was the head snow control expert on the mountain at that time, and he and a couple other patrollers did the route. They threw several charges in the known trigger zone and didn't get anything to move. As they were skiing down, the whole area did what's known as a "post-control release". That's where the slide goes *after* the explosions - in this case at least a couple of minutes. It was a very big, very fast slide and it caught Tommy, carried him through a bunch of trees, and buried him.
His companions radioed for help immediately and located his signal pretty quickly. It turned out that he was buried under more than ten feet of snow and crumpled up against the base of a large tree. They had to dig a huge hole and worm down through big pine boughs to finally get to him and they weren't able to save him.
(For any of you who come ski here, "Ranger" run off the Bridger Gondola is named for Tommy - his nickname was "Ranger. Also, the Raymer Study Plot and weather station are named in his honor: http://www.jacksonhole.com/map_plot/
At that point, the ski patrol closed the entire mountain while the storm continued. The storm raged for another seven days and I heard rumors that the wind anemometer at the top of the tram, which registers up to 120mph, was clocked for nearly a 24-hour period during that storm.
During the middle of the storm, there was a memorial for Tommy at the base of the Apres Vous chair. Several hundred people turned out and even though the wind was blowing so hard the candles wouldn't stay lit and you couldn't hear anything any of the speakers said, it was one of the most moving moments I've ever experienced.
By the time the snow let up on a Friday evening, it had snowed over a hundred inches at the base of the ski area and they were never able to figure out how much it snowed at the top.
On Saturday morning, our dog wanted to go out. I was opening the door for her when Ruth suggested that I go walk with her (the dog, that is, not Ruth). I'd been indoors for days just listening to the wind, so the idea of walking the dog sounded fairly good and off we went.
It was about 7:45am when we turned up McCollister Drive. That street goes uphill straight toward the mountain, with side streets going off it parallel to the base of the Lower Faces.
As we were walking up, I heard the 135mm howitzer go off from the base area. Purely because the dog wanted out that morning and Ruth basically kicked me ou too, I happened to be in a position to be the closest witness to what happened next.
The first shot hit on the north side of the Headwall (almost straight up from where the top station of the Bridger Gondola is now). I could see it very clearly. The next two shots were aimed progressively westward along the Headwall ridge.
The fourth shot found the trigger.
As I watched, the entire Headwall fractured and dropped in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Wall to wall, probably close to a half mile of snow just fell off the mountain. That picture is indelibly etched in my mind. I later heard the crown was 30 feet high at its peak.
From where I was standing, my perspective of the area immediately below the Headwall was blocked by a small ridge-like bench near the base of the Thunder chair. Just looker's right of that chair, there used to be (key phrase, here) a halfway house log cabin restaurant. It sat on that bench in a grove of very big pine and spruce trees.
When the slide disappeared from my view, I assumed it would stop in the relatively flat area of Amphitheater run above the halfway house. The Headwall had slid before and run out into Amphitheater, so I assumed that's what would happen this time.
About two seconds later, I watched as a cloud of snow that I would estimate at 200-300 feet high (based on how much higher it was than the trees) came roaring over the bench. I watched it blow out 3-foot diameter trees like the proverbial matchsticks and the halfway house just literally exploded.
At *that* point, I'm standing directly downhill of a massive slide. The dog and I started running.
I was still 2,000 vertical feet down the hill from the snow, but I was picturing that classic old avalanche film where the slide starts out way, way up in the peaks and just keeps coming and coming until it buries the camera (and supposedly the cameraman).
I could hear trees breaking and a rushing noise from above, and I was running as hard as I could. After about a minute, I was hearing less noise from above and I stopped to look around.
By chance, it had gotten warm enough the afternoon before, and the snow on the bottom half of the mountain had turned fairly damp. As the slide came down into the wetter snow, it gradually slowed down and transformed into a wet-snow slide. As it slowed, it spread into three fingers and each one came to a stop within about 50 feet of the top-most houses in Teton Village. Even today, as you get off the short little chairlift that brings you back from the Hobacks traverse, you can see the brush and rubble pile within a few feet of the deck of the house just to the right of the top station.
That avalanche ran over two miles and about 3,500 vertical feet, right through the heart of the Jackson Hole ski area. The ski area stayed closed for days while they bulldozed out the giant trees that were spread all over Amphitheater.
It was an unbelievable sight and an amazing experience.
I heard a few years ago that the ski patrol was concerned about the fact that it was becoming almost impossible to buy shells for the 135 anymore because it was all Korean War-era ammunition. I'll have to ask somebody where that stands.
Sorry for the long-winded tale, but I've always thought it was an interesting time.