Monday, August 25, 2014


I was watching an episode of "So you Think you'd Survive" about surviving Avalanches and it took me back to the 1980s when I had to go through one alone at about 10,000 feet up on Mt. Shasta. The operative word here is "I was alone" with no backup and this was before I purchased my first cell phone and even before there was any reception for cell phones at all at this altitude on the mountain.

I was mountaineering skiing and had traversed over from Horse Camp and was planning a relatively level  traverse  on ski that would take me to the old Ski Bowl Area of the 1950s and 1960s near Panther Meadows Spring.  However, that was not to be.

Luckily, though I was above tree line I was on a slope about about 25 degrees to 30 degrees at most. However, if the slope I had been on was 35 to 45 degrees and this had happened I likely wouldn't be here writing this for you now.

Suddenly, I realized the whole area surrounding me for about a block in all directions was moving down the hill really fast. So, I knew if I didn't move as fast as I could to stay on top of this that I was going to be dead. I couldn't make a single mistake and be alive at the end of this. So, I moved my poles and skis as fast as I could to not die to stay up on top of the moving snow as a whole block of it went down the hill. There was no skiing to the side of it because there wasn't that kind of opportunity. All I could do was try to stay on top of it so I could keep breathing. Even working as hard as I possibly could I was up to my waist or chest when I was done and it took me some time to get up out of being so deep into the snow. And on top of this the snow was at least 5 to 10 feet deeper than I was when it stopped too. So, there was at least 15 to 20 feet of snow everywhere even after the avalanche.

I was lucky because I had taken my shirt off because I had been working hard and it was warming up that day in the sun which was okay because I had sun block on and mountain climbing strength sunglasses that likely were bug glasses so no extra light could get to my eyes so they are very close to your face so no light from the side can get into where your eyes are.

But, this also made it very cold during the avalanche when snow was going every which way sort of like a lake, river or ocean going down the hill all at once the size of a city block with me in the very middle.

So, when it finally stopped I was over waist deep in the snow but my chest and arms were out of it even though the snow was kind of cold on my lower torso because I had taken my shirt off.

At this point I finally had time to think about how I had almost died and was very shaken by the whole experience at this point. However, my father always had a saying to shake off near death experiences which was, "A Miss is as good as a  mile". Which meant that anything you survive  you are still alive so it didn't matter you almost died.

However, this particular incident because I was alone shook me up and I just skied back to my vehicle and and drove back down into Mt. Shasta where I lived then in the mid 1980s.

If I had been with a friend skiing we likely would have just laughed this off as an adventure and continued our traverse to the old Ski lift from the 1950s and 1960s before they tore it all down because of an avalanche which destroyed it.

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