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[pct-l] Re: self arrests

> From: Ronald Moak <ronm@fallingwater.com>
> To: 'goforth@cio.net'; pct-l@mailman.backcountry.net
> Subject: RE: [pct-l] self arrests
> Date: Saturday, January 06, 2001 6:19 PM
> I don't know, maybe I missed something last summer. But I didn't see any
> section of the PCT that would require expert knowledge of ice axe usage
> traverse. Granted there are a few tricky places, but even they are quite
> manageable if done in the afternoon when the snow has softened
> significantly. 
> Yes small patchy snow can be dangerous. But knowing how to self arrest
> probably won't help you either. Knowing how to cut steps will. Or again
> waiting until the snow softens. 

Wow, I can hardly believe what I am reading.  If you have to cut steps to
get down a slope, and don't know how to self arrest, than what are you
going to do if you slip?  You can self arrest in places that you can cut
steps(better be damn fast about it tho).  You can self arrest on a slope
that requires crampons.  Otherwise, WHY CARRY AN ICE AX?

Over and over, you say just wait until the snow softens in the afternoon. 
Both accidents that I mentioned were in the afternoon.  The one where the
persons legs were completely abraded down the front(wear pants, although
nylon will really get you going fast) and whose shoulder was dislocated,
was about 30 degree firm, non icey snow over a trail interspersed by
patches of heather- the person has steps kicked into the slope by three
people in front of him.  The person failed to self arrest through 2 patches
of snow and 2 patches of heather(yes, you should use the ax to self arrest
in heather).  A slight amelioration of the slope before a cliffy area
stopped his momentum.

What about the circumstances in which there is no afternoon sun to soften
the snow (the John Lowder scenario).  Or where you reach the North side of
a pass just a little too late inthe afternoon.  The snow hardens in about
30 minutes.  I found that the north side of Forester and Glen Passes were
very dicey at this hour.  Mather is just as bad.  Do you believe that the
snow situation next year will be like the one you expereinced?  Do you
believe that the sun will always be shinning and the snow level well below
normal in the Sierras?
> Joanne writes >> Second, when the time comes to do a self arrest, you do
> have time to
> think about it, it has to be an immediate automatic response.  In the
> two accidents that I have seen, both people had had training in self
> arrest, and neither one did it when the time came.<< 
> Joanne by your logic, not only do you need the training, but you need a
> degree of mountaineering experience also. In most of my experiences with
> Axes, if you're in a situation where an ice axe is critical to your
> survival, you ought to be wearing crampons or heavy soled boots. Except
> Monte, I'm not sure there are many people packing crampons through the
> Sierras. 
> Those of us who prefer sneakers to boots would rather take a nap and let
> sun do its job.

Well again, you do not have to be on icey snow to need a ice ax to prevent
the tremendous gain in speed that happens on snow, even on fairly soft snow
if you are wearing nylon pants or a parka.

If you are carrying an ice ax, it is useless unless you know how to use it.
 And it is useless UNLESS YOU DO USE IT, when you have to.  Training only
helps to a degree.  When the time comes to USE an ice ax, you had better
have a do or die attitude, because that is what it takes.