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How to shovel after an avalanche

 

13 January 2016 Author Paul Quigley

 

Shoveling might seem easy, but during an avalanche rescue it can consume most of the time. Here are some tips to help you in that difficult situation.

Excavate immediately downhill of the probe strike. In burials deeper than one metre, start the excavation downhill about 1.5 times the burial depth. By excavating downhill from the probe, there will be less snow to move and you won’t compact the snow over the victim’s limited air pocket.

Avalanche debris is often firm, so chop the snow into blocks, then scoop. Try “paddling” rather than lifting each scoop. Avalanche professionals recommend aluminum shovels over plastic in ral avalanche debris. Oval shafts provide the most strength with the least weight.

 

Single Rescuer


Single Rescuer

Once the victim is located, leave probe in place as a marker. Probe depth markings will also aid in determining optimum hole size. Start moving the snow out the sides of your hole. When the snow surface rises above your waist, start moving snow downhill, out the end of your hole. Attempt to get to the victim’s face as soon as possible. Uncover their head and chest immediately to establish an airway. It is not necessary to dig the entire hole to the depth of the victim. Excavate at an angle as shown.

 

 

Multiple Rescuers


Multiple Rescuers

Performed if beacons are not worn or not functioning. Probe up to 6 feet deep (1.5 metres) in likely burial spots. These include the fall line below last-seen-area; around the victim’s equipment on surface; above and below rocks & trees; depressions, curves, and the toe of the debris pile. Studies show that avalanche victims rarely survive below 6 feet (1.5 metres). Therefore a live recovery is more likely if you probe more areas than if you probe deeper. Recommended probe length: 2 to 3 metres.