Surviving an Avalanche in the Tetons by Jimmy Chin

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Jimmy Chin
Jimmy Chin

On April 1st, 2011 world famous photographer and skier Jimmy Chin was skiing in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming with Jeremy Jones & Xavier du la Rue.  Jeremy went first, hid in a safe zone, and waited for Jimmy.  Jimmy dropped in and the whole thing ripped out on his third turn.  Here is a unique perspective of his experience we can all learn from via his journal entry from that day:

“Hope fades and fear rises. It is a dark time. I feel speed, velocity, power, forces unnatural for a body to experience. Then comes the weight. It pushes down. It compresses. It is more and more and more and more…..It is unbearable. I hear myself roar from a place I knew a long time ago. It is primal. It comes from my stomach and into my chest. I hold on to my body. Bracing, bracing, tightening for impact. The impact never comes, but the weight gives me no release and I feel my chest compressed and crushed. No chance to breathe. No chance to expand my lungs. It is dark and it is dark.

I think about fighting, but there is nothing to fight. I can’t tell which way is up or down. I am completely overpowered and overwhelmed with the weight. I don’t have a breath and I know there is no out. Sometime in this moment I become only my consciousness. I don’t leave my body per se, but I am no longer a part of it. The roar of the avalanche diminishes and I am only a thought “I always wondered how I was going to die and now I know….I always wondered how I was going to die and now I know….I always wondered how I was going to die and now I know.” Then it became “If I’m thinking, then I must be alive, if I am alive, if I am alive, I should fight.” The conversation is strangely unattached or emotional. It feels like it could have gone either way. It seemed merely a second thought that I wasn’t ready to leave yet…but it becomes a decision.” – Jimmy Chin

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

Read the entire Jimmy Chin journal entry here:  Jimmy Chin April 1st, 2011 Avalanche Entry

Reading this type of account is great for our perspective and for learning more about avalanche terrain and the decisions made within it.  When it comes to avalanches, we can never learn too much.  Thanks for sharing this experience Jimmy.


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