AAI Avalanche 1 Course – Day 2
03 Mar, 2012
As soon as I got confirmation that I would be heading up to BC and AK this year, I knew it was time to take the avalanche level I course. I checked out a couple options for course providers in the NW and eventually found the American Alpine Institute out of Bellingham and Mt Baker. I signed up and paid my fees so I could finally get a better understanding and more practice in the backcountry.
The first day was Friday which was a classroom day. We really discussed a lot of information, technical knowledge and used interaction/videos to help the learning process. It was a good way to start the course. Day two started on Saturday where we met up in the Mt Baker parking lot at 8am to finally bring the tools we learned into the classroom to life on the slopes.
Erin and Dustin were our guides for the course. The first part of the day was making sure our beacons were on and working properly. We talked about the weather and to watch for weather signs as we skinned up the mountain.
Earlier this year I finally got a splitboard but this was the first time I was able to use it on the snow. My new splitboard is the K2 Panoramic and I’ve got Spark R&D bindings. Over the years I’ve acquired the backcountry essentials: beacon, probe, shovel. But today was the first day of the splitboarding season for me and definitely a hard one to get my skinning legs back under me.
From the parking lot, we got our gear ready and started skinning up to the backcountry gate. Once out of the gate, we headed up to a safe spot to practice the fundamentals we learned in the classroom. Basically hiding a beacon and learning to accurately find it and unbury it.
Run, walk and crawl. Learning how to be better at using a beacon to be able to find someone in an avalanche.
In the afternoon, we headed up higher on the slopes to do our pit tests of the day to dig out the snow and see what the layers are like underneath us. It was pretty interesting to see what we learned in the classroom.
Probably the most noticeable test was doing a wider pit test where Erin on the skis was above the pit and went from standing to jumping to see if the snow below would break. It did break and you can see it right in this picture where it’s broken and about to break off down below.
Finally at the end of the day, pieced together the splitboard for a ride down the mountain. It was a good learning day on the snow and I was really happy I had Gore Tex gear because I needed it today. Day three is tomorrow with a lot more skinning, snowboarding and avalanche training time.