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how to avoid being cliff out

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

 

Recently a Taiwan skier got cliffed out in Titlis and spent 4k Euro for a heli rescue ride, my questions is how do you avoid being cliffed out, as the entry look innocent enough – see picture below, he took the yellow line. Sometime when I ski off-piste in Kirkwood or squaw, I worry about the same thing.
 


Edited by RBC - 5/21/2009 at 01:19 am GMT


Edited by RBC - 5/21/2009 at 01:20 am GMT
post #2 of 12

Wouldn't hiring a guide be smarter and cheaper in such terrain ?  Looks like a fools errand without one unless one has fully scouted his descent somehow.

 

 

post #3 of 12

If you ski in an area where there are cliffs and you take an unknown line, even if there are other tracks on it, what do you expect?  Look at the yellow line in the picture, the guy was skiing hanging snowfields and apparently never looked at the bottom couple thousand feet of the decent.  What kind of moron would ski terrain like that without looking at it first? He was lucky it only cost him money.

 

As for off piste skiing at areas, if you are totally clueless about the terrain you are skiing, IMO you have no business being there.  It is always fun to explore, but if you don't know the parameters of what you may get into then you are skiing blind.

post #4 of 12

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBC View Post

 

Recently a Taiwan skier got cliff out in Titlis and spent 4k Euro for a heli rescue ride, my questions is how do you avoid being cliff out, as the entry look innocent enough – see picture below, he took the yellow line. Sometime when I ski off-piste in Kirkwood or squaw, I worry about the same thing.
 

 

It's really simple.  Know exactly where you are at all times and you won't get cliffed out.  If you aren't on a marked run, you either need to be able to see the *complete* line from the start, or you need to have scoped the complete line from below and committed the navigation to memory.  Doing either will ensure you don't end up on a cliff.

 

If you manage to get lost, you have to apply the above as best you can.  If you must start down an unknown slope, be certain you will be comfortable (and able) to take off your skis and climb back up if necessary.  Based on the terrain that you can see, pick a point to ski to where you can safely stop, reevaluate and retreat from if necessary.

 

Don't blindly ski over rollovers.  They might be hiding cliffs and it might already be too late before you realize that.  If you can, traverse to either avoid the rollover or try to obtain a better view of the terrain below.  If you must scout the rollover directly, do it carefully. Side step the rollover, probing first with your pole to make sure you aren't stepping out onto snow covered rock.

Don't blindly follow unknown ski tracks.  They may have been set by someone who was equally lost (and end in a cliff) or they might have been set by somebody who knew exactly where they were going (and end in cliff).  Use your head, trust your gut, and proceed with caution so you don't get trapped.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

 

Thanks for the sound advice instead of all-mighty lecture, safer to learn it here then learn it on the hill. Sometime you can only get a partial view hence difficult to see the whole run either from the top or the bottom.
post #6 of 12

Couldn't he have fishboned or left the skis and toe jammed back up to avoid the heli rescue costs?

post #7 of 12

groffda gives very sound advice. The simple rule is that if you don't know where you are going, never ski anything you can't hike back up, preferably while wearing or carrying your skis.  In steep deep snow it is often easier to climb on your knees with your feet in the snow and a flat lower leg on top to spread your weight out. Skis can be stuck in the snow above you and used to pull yourself up.  Horizontal in soft snow and tails in for hard snow.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

Couldn't he have fishboned or left the skis and toe jammed back up to avoid the heli rescue costs?

From what I understand he spend a lot of energy try to retrieve lost ski (due to pervious fall) and is getting wet and cold, it also passed his meeting time (day is getting late) with his group so they must have called the rescue, he said he heard helicopter fly over a few times just did not spot him but eventually did. Anyway an expensive lesson for him.



 

post #9 of 12

There are times where going back up could be impossible (or close to it) as well as more dangerous. It seems that often when the skis come off that is when things really start to go wrong.

 

So how do you keep from getting cliffed out. Well, start with a map and have some idea of where you are going. When you get into the unknown (to you) areas, take small bites. Know where the safe terrain is and if you start feeling like you don't know where you are, traverse back to the safe terrain. You may still get cliffed out. If so, the $4000 probably beats falling to your death.

post #10 of 12
Quote:

how do you avoid being cliff out?

I think even the lectures are sound advice.  Most resorts in Europe mark their boundaries pretty well, so I'll have to assume the skier was out of bounds & passed one of the many "ACHTUNG VERBOTTEN!" signs.  In that instance an area map may not be much assistance.  One practice I have used over the years when skiing unfamiliar lines along with scoping the slope from below, has been to take a photo of the face with me.  It often looks much different from the top than what you expected, with many possible entries, many of which may be dead ends.  Lately, with a digital camera I will take many different shots when doing reconnaissance, & then review them through the viewfinder when I have the need.  What goes all the way this week, may not go next week.

 

A couple of examples that I used this season:

 

 

I'll admit that in my younger years, I had to climb back up a few times.  Definitely not the best option, it was a very nerve wracking & unpleasant experience.  I think there was a thread on here early this season about a father & son getting cliffed out near Mt. Baker.  The father took his skis off to climb back up, slipped & paid the ultimate price.  Serious mountaineers are usually equipped with ropes, harnesses & anchors for such events.

 

It sounds like the guy in your story suffered from ignorance & is lucky his friends sent a rescue party.

 

JF


Edited by 4ster - 5/20/2009 at 11:37 pm GMT
post #11 of 12

Geez, I would never ski offpiste at the top of Engelberg without a guide. That's just stupid if you don't know that area really well. Just one look out the window of the tram's enough to set the red lights flashing. 

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

Geez, I would never ski offpiste at the top of Engelberg without a guide. That's just stupid if you don't know that area really well. Just one look out the window of the tram's enough to set the red lights flashing. 


Sorry for resurrecting an old thread, but I think this is a very important point that Prickly makes, and not just for Engelberg.

When I moved here from the US and went on my first ski trip in the Alps, the first thing I noticed was the much higher cliff danger compared to the North American resorts I had been to, even in the areas well inbounds.

Even a little jaunt off piste to go from one marked trail to another needs to be scoped out, as there could be a 30-ft cliff right in the middle of the resort that can't be seen from above. Or, as I saw in Tignes, you could drop down into a hidden creek bed and have to do a half-mile trek to get back to anything with enough of a pitch to start skiing again (luckily I spotted that from the lift rather than learning the hard way).

Everything in the Alps needs to be fully scoped out or done with a guide who really knows the area. I've spotted dozens of great off-piste lines well within the resort boundaries that I had to pass up on because there simply wasn't a skiable exit route due to cliffs, creeks, etc. 
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