VIDEO: Organizing A Backcountry Rescue

Mike Bartholow | BackcountryBackcountry | AvalancheAvalanche

Brought to you by SCARPA Backcountry Week

This is the fourth installment of my highlighting Backcountry Access’ Avalanche Safety videos for SCARPA Backcountry Week.  In the preceding videos, we looked at some of the parts of a companion avalanche rescue in the backcountry, including single and multiple-burial rescue with transceivers, probing, and strategic shoveling. In this video, BCA Ambassador Sarah Carpenter of the American Avalanche Institute puts it all together and discusses how to go about performing a companion avalanche search and rescue.

Fine search with BCA Tracker 4| Credit: BCA Facebook

Recent avalanche conditions have been dangerous across the United States, with a record number of recreational avalanche deaths. With a Holiday weekend coming up, and storms in the forecasts for many backcountry zones, it is important that folks be prepared for the very real possibility of being involved in an avalanche incident, either with your own party or with others you may encounter out in the backcountry. Expanding on the message I posted from the Northwest Avalanche Center yesterday, they say:

“While it’s impossible to draw a direct line between the stressors of the pandemic and avalanche incidents, the virus clearly adds overt and latent stressors on all of our lives. These stressors influence our day-to-day interactions, and they likely impact our recreational mindset in the backcountry.

Your risk is determined by deciding where and when to go. Please consider the intersection of the snowpack, your experience, and the added stress of recent months on you and your partners. Are you feeling the need to push it, or could you pull back a bit? Life in the pandemic has undoubtedly added more uncertainty to our lives.

Remember this tenant from your avalanche education: as uncertainty in your plan increases—your exposure to hazards should decrease.

Avalanche centers across the US are focused on one thing: equipping the public with information and education that enables people to recreate safely in the snow. As you head out for that much needed time in the backcountry, we urge you to read and understand our avalanche forecasts, plan accordingly, and consider how the pandemic may be altering your recreational mindset.”

– Scott Schell, Executive Director and Dennis D’Amico, Forecast Director – Northwest Avalanche Center


Large backcountry ski group | Credit: BCA Facebook

A backcountry companion avalanche rescue is very challenging under the best of circumstances. I urge you to consider your group size and objectives, use effective communication and practice good decision making. Your terrain choices need to be well considered. Practice the companion avalanche rescue techniques you’ve learned in your avalanche courses.

Backcountry Access’ Avalanche Safety videos can be found on their website

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