Investigate Trip Options

annotated Ian Nicholson photo

How to ensure you always have a trip option to match the conditions.

Match Trips to the Conditions and the Group

Prior to creating a plan for each trip, you need to be familiar with trip options in your area. Terrain recognition needs to be distilled into three factors for a given day:

Weather

Match the weather forecast to your options for the day. Think of critical factors like visibility, changing patterns, expected precipitation, wind, and temperatures. How will these variables affect the ability to travel safely to your objective?

Conditions

Read the local avalanche advisory. What avalanche problems exist that could impede your objective? Will snow affect the stability needed for your ascent and descent through the mountains? Will you be able to travel efficiently?

Group Ability

Develop a range of trip options for differing abilities. Does the group's education, skill set, fitness, and ability match your objective? It is important to remember group size with regards to variables such as spatial limitations, decision making, leadership, and rescue.

When Creating Trip Options...

Rarely do you need to start from scratch. Utilize resources like local shops, guidebooks, maps, and online forums. Cross-reference all of the information to create trip options that are congruent to your needs. Think in seasonal terms – from terrain that is safe during more hazardous days, to the open and endless powder runs, to the springtime mountaineering objectives that might not be appropriate during the winter months.

Even the most popular runs have multiple names. In order to create clarity, a simple line on a map will give you the ability to share the same rhetoric and information with your team. Furthermore, go into more detail about how to travel to the line, what conditions match the line from an avalanche and snow quality perspective, and create a timeline to account for fitness and daylight.

Always have an emergency route in mind. This route should also couple as an ascent route to your desired run and should not be in or exposed to avalanche terrain. Given that walking uphill is when we spend the most time exposed to a hazard, this is a very important protocol. This also gives you a safe option to descend if the conditions in the field don’t match your trip plans.

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Benja Glatz