1st AIARE Avalanche Course of the Season

Mother Nature really prepped the Mount Washington Valley for the 1st Eastern Mountain Sports Schools Avalanche Course this season by bringing close to 22 inches in the last four days. This brought our monthly total to 70″ (178cm) and according to the Mount Washington Observatory that puts us 20 inches above average for the month, and way above the average for recent years. I caught a glimpse of this channel 13 forecast 2 days before the course started:

photo 1So this past Saturday I met the first 7 avalanche students at the AMC  Highland Center in Crawford Notch in full on Nor’Easter conditions. We spent the morning delving into the basics of avalanche terrain, then spent the afternoon outside practicing companion rescue.

The next day was much milder and after some morning classroom we headed out for our observational outing in the afternoon.

photo 2I can’t remember a year where we’ve had such great snow to travel on before the New Year. Last year it took almost the entire month of January to break out the skis, so using them on the first course was a very welcome boon. To add some icing on the cake we had some excellent visible layers for our first snow pits, getting very positive test results while learning about some small column tests. CTE Q1 and CTM Q2 45cms down for those in the know ;)

Our Day 3 tour was “full value” as Mother Nature’s fierce grip on Mount Washington had yet to loosen, yet the whole group was physically and mentally prepared to travel in what many would consider horrible conditions:

photo 5After reaching Hermit Lake we assessed the current conditions and decided to look for some sheltered snow near Hillman’s Highway. But first a quick group shot at the avalanche conditions board:

photo 3We took a look at the devastation from the 2008 D4 avalanche in Hillman’s and worked our way up a small ridge to see what else we could see…

photo 4Conditions being quite brutal, we took in the sights, made some quick weather observations, and quickly descended back to a sheltered area near to first aid cache. After a couple quick snowpack observations there we headed back to Pinkham and wrapped up the first avy course of the season…

All 7 participants were fully engaged in the process, the snow conditions were almost perfect for learning about avalanches, and despite the wind chill being a bit on the extreme side, I couldn’t be happier for the way the 1st course turned out.

So here’s the thing… we are already sold out through the month of January and a weekend in March has already sold out… space in these courses is really at a premium this year… with a banner winter season in the making now is not the time to postpone signing up for an avalanche course if you have been meaning to take one. Click here to see the course details and available dates. See you on the mountain!

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About David Lottmann

David grew up skiing in the Whites and started climbing at a summer camp just north of Mt. Washington when he was 16. Those first couple of years solidified climbing as a lifetime passion. From 1996-2000 he served in the USMC, and spent the better part of those years traveling the globe (18 countries). After returning to civilian life he moved to North Conway to focus on climbing and was hired in 2004 as a Rock and Ice Instructor. Since then Dave has taken numerous AMGA courses, most recently attaining a Single Pitch Instructor. He has completed a Level 3 AIARE avalanche course, is a Level 2 Course Leader, holds a valid Wilderness First Responder and is a member of Mountain Rescue Service. When David isn't out guiding he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backcountry skiing, trying to cook something new once a week and sampling new micro-brews. He lives in Conway, NH with his wife Michelle and son Alex.
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