Gain more knowledge, more skill and save lives.
I asked how folks should be prepared to go out in the winter. He smirked, because he thinks I also know the answer, but I personally wanted to hear what he’d say. Pancho grew up in Chile and began climbing at 12 years old. His life has been filled with skiing, rock climbing, high altitude and in his modest words, some first assents here and there. He’s been on remote expeditions where no one has been before. He’s also guided for decades internationally and has the highest accreditation one can obtain in avalanche safety. So yes, of course, I wanted his opinion.
“When you are going out in winter, you need to think about you and your groups safety. It’s cold. The days are shorter. Night arrives quickly and then on top of all of that are avalanches. The best way to avoid avalanches is to avoid avalanche terrain. But how do you know how to avoid that if you don’t know what to look for? Sometimes the avalanche terrain is high above. And up there, it is so different than valley bottom. How safe is it to cross an avalanche slope? Is the risk worth taking or not?”
“Rather than giving the answers right away, I like leading people to find the answer. In my courses, I have you come to the decision of which way we are going up. What do you think would be a good route down and why? Is this particular terrain on the avalanche exposure scale? The more informed you are, the better decisions you can make."
"Otherwise you might not know how close to dying you were.”
I will admit, that class 3 avalanche stopped my skis for a long time. Each time I thought of putting myself back in those winter mountain situations, I flashbacked and panicked. I personally chose to get back up there by hiring my own mountain guide to team up with my friends and I on a five day wapta icefield traverse.