[pct-l] picture of n. side of Forester Pass 2 weeks ago

ned at mountaineducation.org ned at mountaineducation.org
Fri May 18 13:03:19 CDT 2012

Hi, Cathy!

I want to echo what Gary said in that the PNW knows its snow and what you 
would learn up there would be easily translated to the Sierra maritime snow. 
Taking a course up there would be convenient if you live there.

However, Mountain Education does offer snow skills course taught in the Lake 
Tahoe area during the winter and spring months (if we have enough snow...). 

Watching videos of self-arrest will help you understand in your head what 
you'll need to do reflexively should you fall on snow. The watching, in and 
of itself, does not teach you how your body and muscles will have to react 
when you're in that moment of chaos and confusion when you're tumbling or 
sliding out of control down the slope toward the rocks and trees below.

Take a skills course wherever you are. Many college Outdoor Programs, retail 
stores, or private wilderness schools teach it.

Learning what it takes to "walk" on spring consolidated snow is crucial to 
your safety and general enjoyment. Who wants to worry about falling? Most 
people who haven't had the experience, figure that since summer trail is 
flat, so too will be the snow over it. Not so. The wind blows the snow into 
all sorts of formations and angles that are added to the underlying 
topography and make your "walking" over snow pretty tricky. Once you have 
the feel of it, you won't be worrying any more, just cautious at the right 

The worst slopes are those you have to traverse. Going straight up or down 
is not as risky. Maintaining your balance and traction on the sides of your 
boots is the key to your success. Microspikes may "work" for some and on 
some types of footwear, but not in our 30 years of teaching snow skills in 
the sierra. Test everything (food, clothing, gear, skills, etc.) out for 
yourself in order to decide what "works" for you.

With that in mind, go right now, while the current year's thrus are dealing 
with the snow in the sierra, and see for yourself what you'll have to deal 
with up there. The way sierra snow consolidates, settles, and melts out may 
be far different than what happens to spring snow in other parts of the 
country or world. We encourage our students who plan on hiking the PCT or 
CDT to go into "the bowels of the beast" when they expect to be there the 
following year to see what it's really like, to test their current skills in 
the same conditions (types of snow, slopes, and creek crossings), and to 
know what to plan for (gear, clothing, amount of food, types of footwear).

Don't rely on the comments of others who have only been there once or twice. 
Snow conditions are different every year--they're even different every day 
in the spring (some who pay attention to these things will tell you that 
they change every hour because of the sun and ambient temperatures). How 
people deal with the challenges of snow and creek crossings vary widely. 
Listen to them all. Then go there yourself and learn on the real thing. 
You'll be more confident, assured, relaxed, which will all lead to better 
balance, traction, decisions, and sleep, making for more fun and enjoyment 
of your experience on your "hike-of-a-lifetime."

We are always here, if you have any further questions regarding mountain 
safety. This is what we do. Sorry that we couldn't make it to the Kickoff 
this year to make our annual Mountain Safety Presentation with the lauded 
Ken Murray. We are in the process of moving to Reno, NV to further our own 
skills training into Nursing and Paramedic levels....

Ned Tibbits, Director
Mountain Education
South Lake Tahoe, CA

-----Original Message----- 
From: Catherine Ford
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 5:13 PM
To: pct-l at backcountry.net ; kmurray at pol.net
Subject: [pct-l] picture of n. side of Forester Pass 2 weeks ago

Hi Ken!

I'm a newbie hiker/backpacker. How/where does one learn how to
"self-arrest" with an ice axe? I don't usually like going to the snow, but
I'd like to thru-hike the PCT at some point down the road and am trying to
figure out what I don't know and how to learn it. I appreciate any info you
can provide me.

Have a Great Day!


Catherine E. Ford

Something to think about: "Millions saw an apple fall. Only Newton asked

Message: 13
Date: Tue, 15 May 2012 11:24:21 -0400
From: Ken Murray <kmurray at pol.net>
Subject: [pct-l] picture of n. side of Forester Pass 2 weeks ago
To: "." <pct-l at backcountry.net>
1799880286.990891337095460952.JavaMail.root at zmcs03l-pol-08.portal.webmd.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
This thread contains a great pic of the north side of Forester.  That is a
lot of snow.
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