Contact   Imprint   Advertising   Guidelines

There is a first time for everything!

forum for snow- and landkiters


User avatar
Noahpz
Very Frequent Poster
Posts: 549
Joined: Fri May 28, 2004 6:14 am
Kiting since: 2002
Style: Big mtn snowkiting w/ lots of freestyle
Brand Affiliation: Ozone
Location: Bozeman, Montana

There is a first time for everything!

Postby Noahpz » Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:18 am

There is a first time for everything!

For many years I have been smugly satisfied that as a snowkiter I am often kiting intermediate terrain which poses no risk to being buried in an avalanche. On risky days when the avy cycle was considerable or high, I knew that my friends and I were safe from avalanche danger and could enjoy the deep, fresh powder without worry. Further, on steeper terrain, we are usually kiting on the windward slope, the mountain side that is quite stable.

However, as our kite skills have advanced that has smugness has disappeared. We are seeking out steeper and steeper terrain and placing ourselves into situations that do pose an objective hazard to snow slides.

Recently I was kiting in Wyoming’s Big Horn mountains and was seeing lots of small pockets of wind loaded terrain releasing remotely. These pockets of unstable, wind loaded snow were popping 400 - 500 yards away as I kited nearby on shallower terrain. They were running on faceted snow buried near the ground level.

On our second day, a group of us arrived on the SW side of Bald Mountain and saw that nothing had released after considerable (3 -4 feet) of new snowfall. Having kited this side of the mountain many, many times I know the mountain like my backyard. I knew that if I kited the cornice line I could bust the cornice, get some movement, release the hang fire and thereby stabilize the lower slopes. I launched my kite, my 15m Ozone Summit, and proceeded to make one pass above the cornice. Nothing moved. The cornice was rock solid, anchored firmly in place. Following that, I made a couple passes on the lower slope, keeping well away from the overhanging portions of the cornice. Still nothing moved. Again, I was well away from any overhanging portions of the steeper ridge.

On my third pass, ripping along in the fresh powder, in an instant the slope around me erupted in a fury of moving snow. Blocks and bricks of the avalanche roiled downward. I reacted calmly and brought my kite high, took advantage of the localized ridge lift and floated my skis lightly above the maelstrom. The experience of kite skiing above the moving snow was enchanting. The visual experience of seeing an avalanche from above was amazing; it was as if I was in a river rapid. Kiting in a cascading flow of moving snow was certainly a first for me and, while momentarily exhilarating, not an experience I want to repeat.

As kiters seeking out steep terrain in high, remote mountains we need to increase our safety preparedness. Beacons, shovels, probes, experienced partners, PLB’s, first aid training, rescue training, are just a few of the basics that our sport now requires. We have long past the days of kiting in farm fields with limited skills or preparedness. The times have changed and we need to have the awareness to be ready for the unlikely day that things don’t go as planned.

Thanks for reading and windy regards,

Noah - Powered by Ozone Kites
Attachments
Avy 4.jpg
An example of a remotely released pocket with a potential terrain trap below.
Avy 3.jpg
One of the many remotely released slides in the Big Horns that day. Five to 6 foot crown.
Avy 2a.jpg
This is another shot of the pocket. Three foot crown, about 200 yards wide, 50 foot path,
Avy 2.jpg
My kite partner captured this photo with his GoPro as the pocket erupted while I was kiting.
Avy 1.jpg
Kiting below the pocket after the slide released, my prior tracks are visible as are the entry and exit tracks.

fernmanus
Very Frequent Poster
Posts: 1263
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2004 5:53 am

Re: There is a first time for everything!

Postby fernmanus » Sun Feb 07, 2016 6:51 am

I have often thought about gliding above an avalanche. It must have been a surreal experience. The kind that leaves you a bit shaken, yet at the same time so alive! Fortunately, you had the presence of mind and experience to glide over the maelstrom. A less experienced kiter may not have been so fortunate.

You are correct. When you go into the backcountry, you need to be well-prepared. However, it is my opinion that there is no need to travel avalanche-prone areas when you have a kite. Stick to the lower aspect terrain and use the power of the kite to enjoy the pow instead of gravity when the avy danger is high. Of course, I understand the temptation to ride the steeper slopes. It is like doing high altitude glides, they are fun but risky.

User avatar
matthepp
Frequent Poster
Posts: 394
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:51 am
Kiting since: 2008
Local Beach: RMP
Favorite Beaches: La Ventana
Kino Bay
Red Mountain Pass
Style: Rich
Gear: 2008 Best Waroo 9m
OR Razor 12m
BD Carbon Megawatts
Space Pickle
Brand Affiliation: Alpine Edge Engineering
Location: Ridgway

Re: There is a first time for everything!

Postby matthepp » Sun Feb 07, 2016 4:26 pm

Noah, that is a wild story and amazing that you and your kite partner happened to document it. Glad you are okay! We too wind up creeping into steeper and steeper features presenting more exposure to avys. I always ride with beacon, shovel, probe, helmet. It's good to have a.very healthy respect for the unpredictability and potential for damage of avalanches! Caltopo.com is a useful tool to quickly show slopes steep enough for avy slabs at your riding spots. Be safe have fun!!

User avatar
Noahpz
Very Frequent Poster
Posts: 549
Joined: Fri May 28, 2004 6:14 am
Kiting since: 2002
Style: Big mtn snowkiting w/ lots of freestyle
Brand Affiliation: Ozone
Location: Bozeman, Montana

Re: There is a first time for everything!

Postby Noahpz » Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:48 pm

Caltopo.com is a great tool for quickly assessing slope angles! Thanks!!

NHKitesurfer
Very Frequent Poster
Posts: 509
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:01 pm
Kiting since: 2012
Local Beach: MA/NH
Gear: Switch & Cabrinha
Brand Affiliation: None

Re: There is a first time for everything!

Postby NHKitesurfer » Wed Feb 10, 2016 7:30 pm

Wow! Scary but cool.

User avatar
CaptainArgh
Very Frequent Poster
Posts: 2771
Joined: Tue Jul 08, 2003 7:06 pm
Kiting since: 2004
Style: freeride, surf, slicks, dwindr exploring
Gear: SS RPM 6, SST 8/10 and Rally 12
Location: MD
Contact:

Re: There is a first time for everything!

Postby CaptainArgh » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:25 pm

Noah, thanks for sharing that story and pics. Wow. Had to be surreal for sure.


Return to “Snow / Land”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests