New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Avy ordnance

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
"coffee can-size explosive hand charge"
"105mm recoilless rifle - it looks like a cannon"

These were mentioned in an article on Alta avy control. The coffee can-size hand charge is carried by a patroller who lights the fuse and lobs the bomb ("onto the broad face known as East Greeley"). The "cannon" is used for more inaccessible terrain.

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.

[ November 05, 2003, 12:33 PM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #2 of 25
Mmmmm ordnance. I've seen all kinds, and don't even live in Avy country. 75mm Pack Howitzer is one. Recoilless rifles of several calibers.

Interesting newer ones though are the air-cannons at Jackson Hole. I like them because they are just like giant paintball guns (my other passion/sport), and the things they have in Lech am Arlberg. I don't know what they are called, but they look sort of like the end of a trumpet (square though) open on both ends. They are propane fueled, and are remotely detonated right above the snow. At first I thought they were giant metal windsocks or something. Anyway, they are fixed in postion, and like I said are remote controlled. Some of the advantages are obvious. For example, no chance of dud-rounds lying around waiting to hurt someone. Also, you don't need to aim, it's already there, so you could fire at night or in a heavy storm. There are probably other advantages too. Disadvantage of course is fixed postion. You'd need one on each slope ou wish to control.
post #3 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by epic:
Mmmmm ordnance. I've seen all kinds, and don't even live in Avy country. 75mm Pack Howitzer is one. Recoilless rifles of several calibers.

Interesting newer ones though are the air-cannons at Jackson Hole. I like them because they are just like giant paintball guns (my other passion/sport), and the things they have in Lech am Arlberg. I don't know what they are called, but they look sort of like the end of a trumpet (square though) open on both ends. They are propane fueled, and are remotely detonated right above the snow. At first I thought they were giant metal windsocks or something. Anyway, they are fixed in postion, and like I said are remote controlled. Some of the advantages are obvious. For example, no chance of dud-rounds lying around waiting to hurt someone. Also, you don't need to aim, it's already there, so you could fire at night or in a heavy storm. There are probably other advantages too. Disadvantage of course is fixed postion. You'd need one on each slope ou wish to control.
There are four of them up on Teton Pass. Controlling Glory Bowl and neighboring Twin Slides have always been problematic. Both threaten the highway and can buuild up enormous slabs overnight during heavy storms. Slides then come rumbling down across the highway during rush hour traffic in the mornings. Because the Dept of Transportation and the Teton Natl Forest avy guys used to have to haul a howitzer or recoilless rifle up on a truck, sight it in, and shoot, they had to wait until conditions were reasonably good to control those slides, so the road sometimes had to be closed for hours (or days).

One of the great snow control stories in Jackson Hole history is the time about 20 years ago when they fired a shot from the highway, aiming for the north side of Glory Bowl. They miscalculated slightly and the shot cleared the ridge heading north. Where it came *down* was about forty feet from one of the lift towers of the Casper chair at Teton Village. The running joke back then was that the highway guys really ought not to get in an artillery battle with the Teton Village ski patrol, because the patrol is *much* more heavily armed.

Anyway, with the remote blasters, they can fire them off anytime and theoretically keep Glory from building up highly destructive slides.

Snowbasin also has a couple of blasters in the John Paul area.

Bob
post #4 of 25
It sounds like Tuckerman Ravine.
post #5 of 25
Quote:
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.
Ryan:

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

1952

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.

Bob
post #6 of 25
post #7 of 25
Damn Maddog, looks like you hit the Motherlode!
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Speaking of motherlode...

WOW.

Maddogg, thanks. Perfect!

B.P., that was priceless. Fantastic story and a great telling of it. Thank you.
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:


B.P., that was priceless. Fantastic story and a great telling of it. Thank you.
Yes, thank you.
post #10 of 25
Wow Bob! Thanks for the JH avalanche story. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Ryan, I can't wait to read the fruits of your labor. Where will we find it? Epic, Aspect Journal, Powder, your memoirs or maybe a bio-pic. Where? When?

IG
post #11 of 25
BTW - Never heard of a 135mm Howitzer, so I've been looking for info on it. Havent found any yet, but here's a link to the US Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, MD - http://www.ordmusfound.org/ another link - http://www.goordnance.apg.army.mil/

Here's a list of all US Army Museums - http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/Museums/links.htm
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by epic:
BTW - Never heard of a 135mm Howitzer
Epic, I would hazard a guess that it's a 105mm gun. Sorry, I didn't scour the websites you listed, but what do you think?

IG

[ November 06, 2003, 09:15 AM: Message edited by: Inspector Gadget ]
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by epic:
BTW - Never heard of a 135mm Howitzer, so I've been looking for info on it. Havent found any yet, but here's a link to the US Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, MD - http://www.ordmusfound.org/ another link - http://www.goordnance.apg.army.mil/

Here's a list of all US Army Museums - http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/Museums/links.htm
Epic:

Now you've got me very curious. I always remember hearing it referred to as a 135, but maybe it's also a 105. It was a short. stubby thing as I recall.

Once the mountain opens, I'll see if I can find out what it was. It sure doesn't look like there's such a thing as a 135mm howitzer based on some of those sites.

Thanks,

Bob
post #14 of 25
The only 135 I could find is a French gun that was used in the Maginot line. I'll bet ammo would be quite rare for that. I'd have guessed it's a 105 or a 155, but both calibers are still in use today. Of course, bore size alone does not tell the whole story on ammo. There could still be obsolete 105s. Anyway, if it is a 135, I can sure see how ammo would be rare.
post #15 of 25
It would have been a 105mm, At that time 105 and 75 mm were in use. As said above ammo for both 75 and 105mm have become scarce and less reliable than we would like. Most operations have or are switching to 106mm but there have bee several accidents related to premature detonation of rounds while still in the barrel.
Also, BATF has tightened the restrictions for explosive use by ski areas. This winter my staff will all be subjected to a federal background checks.
Thanks for the story BP, that was a wild winter for us in Utah as well.
post #16 of 25
The Federation of American Scientists Web Site has loads of good dope on howitzers and other types of potential Avalanche weapons:

Federation of American Scientists

[img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]

BTW, Avalanche control in the Arlberg is done by the Österreichische Bundesgendarmerie:

Austrian Federal Gendarmerie

Given their historical experience, most European governments are relcutant to allow civilians to get involved in handling explosives for avalanche control. BATF is actually quite liberal to allow NSP to do this work. In any event, the gendarmes in the Arlberg use hand charges dropped from helos to do a lot of avalanche control. I've seen them in action many times--it's quite a show to stand at the top of the Kandahar trail and watch these guys bomb Schindler. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ November 07, 2003, 07:40 AM: Message edited by: West Virginia Skier ]
post #17 of 25
Ryan,

One of the Washington State sites I posted has a good photo of an old tank being used in avy work. I believe it is in the section titled North Cascade Photo's. Nothing like a mobile Howitizer to put the fear of gawd in a slab avalanche.

Mark
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
post #19 of 25
BSR, Epic, and others:

The more I think about this 105mm thing, I think I've come to the conclusion that Jackson's recoilless is a 75mm and the howitzer was the 105mm. That must mean that my clock is from the howitzer rather than the rifle. I'll check into all this when all the patrollers are a little more accessible.

More on other ordnance:

I was searching for a good reference to the Avalauncher and came across this site with a story about early avy control on Tuckerman's Ravine. BAR's and .50 cal machine guns!

WHOA!!! Would *that* be a hoot!

http://www.ime-usa.com/ice_festival/.../Brad_Ray.html

It's a fun article.

Bob
post #20 of 25
Demolitions and skiing, it doesn't get any better than that.

I am currently working with the AC-130U "Spooky" Gunship, and it carries both a 105mm howitzer and a 40mm rapid fire Bofors. I never really considered its avalanche control potential until the post, but I think it would do a heck of a job. You could really cover some territory that is foe sure. Kind of funny to think about actually.

Well, guess its time to slip back to reallity.
Later,
Chet
post #21 of 25
Gunships aside, this takes me back to my youth. When I worked for the US Forest service one summer my supervisor was one of the Tuckermans snowrangers. The guy was really hard of hearing. It seems one of the Avalaunchers had blown up in his face. The story I heard was that someone had dropped the thing on the rocks and dented the barrel. When it was later fired, the mortar like projectile had stuck in the tube and the charge, which evidently was timed, had gone off.

[ November 09, 2003, 07:44 AM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #22 of 25
I found this unexploded bomb a few years ago at the Bird: http://roncram.com/posebmb.html
When I called it into mtn ops in the middle of summer they didn't believe me when I described what it looked like. They said they had never used the kind I described.
I finally convinced one of the guys to go look at it. When they realized what I'd found, they made another trip up, wrapped it in C4 and exploded it on the spot. Rocks and schrapnel rained down over 1/4 mile away--a much different scenario than when snow absorbs the blast.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by endlessseason:
I found this unexploded bomb a few years ago at the Bird: http://roncram.com/posebmb.html
When I called it into mtn ops in the middle of summer they didn't believe me when I described what it looked like. They said they had never used the kind I described.
I finally convinced one of the guys to go look at it. When they realized what I'd found, they made another trip up, wrapped it in C4 and exploded it on the spot. Rocks and schrapnel rained down over 1/4 mile away--a much different scenario than when snow absorbs the blast.
Sorry, Endless, but that URL doesn't work for me...

ssh
post #24 of 25
I think it wasn't working for a couple of hours last night, but it's been on ever since. My webmaster's server got hacked by a gang from Brazil.
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by endlessseason:
I think it wasn't working for a couple of hours last night, but it's been on ever since. My webmaster's server got hacked by a gang from Brazil.
Sorry to hear that! The html and jpg were a little messed up, but I figured it out so I could see it. Wow!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion