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How to learn from the Bostan avalanche accident, part 1:

-Blog written by Arno

Last winter (on March 4th) a terrible accident happened in the backcountry of Bostan. A couple of snowshoers got caught in an avalanche a few hundred meter above the mountain hut. This morning the avalanche risk was 4 and the slope they were traversing had an angle of about 35°. Fortunately the lady could free herself. Her husband, who was ahead of her, got taken away by the slab and buried under a few metres of snow. The rescuers (and the victims wife) were not able to localise the man, because he was not wearing an avalanche tranceiver. Sadly he was only found in the spring by a walker, when the snow had melted away the metres of snow that had been covering his body during the previous months.

Read back some facts and details about the avalanche accident at Bostan

Read back eye witness Freds story about this same accident

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This could have been me

These kinds of accidents are always shocking to hear and even more when they come close. Close because it is in our own area and close because we got the uncomfortable feeling that it could have been us, being caught in that avalanche (as a couple, imagine!). The longer we live in the mountains, the more we progress and the more we'd like to push our limits. The backcountry is pulling isn't it? We all like to be out in the wild, away from the crowds to find a serene moment and leave our signature in virgin snow. But beside being beautiful, the backcountry can be dangerous as well. That soft looking powder slope can turn in to a violent and fatal disaster!

When your uncle is not a mountainguide

I write this story in English, because my written English is better then my French. But also because I am part of the non-French community who decided to change an urban life, for a life in the mountains. Being not 'from here' means that we (probably) did not grow up in the mountains. Also that we (probably) won't have an uncle who is a mountainguide that could teach us some mountain knowlegde and skills. This means we have to learn about the mountains and avalanche security ourselves. We can do this by reading books, follow (online) courses and/or be in the mountains as much as we can to learn from experience and the people around us.

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To avoid the worst

Another way of learning is analysing avalanche accidents. What went wrong in a certain situation and how can we learn lessons from it? This means that we can and indeed should learn from tragic situations like the one at Bostan. Out of respect to the relatives and especially to the victims wife, we should not point any fingers or blame them in any way. We can feel sorry about what happened and still learn lessons from it. All with this objective: avoiding the worst by putting ourselves in danger and having more accidents like this.

Don´t get me wrong; I am not an avalanche expert. I am an accompagnateur en montagnes who learnt some stuff about avalanches and safety. I have interest in this subject, because I am out in the snowy mountains a lot and I like to practice my beautiful mountain job many more years. To avoid any more of these kind of avalanche accidents that could come even 'closer', I would like to share some advice with you, based on this accident. Feel free to respond by a comment on this post on FB, so we could even learn more together.

So what, in my opinion, are the four lessons we could learn from the Bostan tragedy?

1: Always bring your avalanche trinity

Before buying an airbag, invest about € 239,- in the avalanche trinity: probe, shovel, tranceiver! This is a must have if you move into the backcountry of snowy mountains.

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Without a transceiver you can´t find your buried mate and he and the rescue team won't be able to find you! But having ONLY a transceiver is not enough and pretty selfish actually. Because if you've find your mate with the help if the signal of your transceiver, you have to make sure you can locate him with your probe and dig him out with your shovel. All within 15 mnts, otherwise it might be to late.

To learn how to work properly and efficiently with your avalanche trinity:

  1. Follow a (simple and basic) transceiver-course
  2. Train and repeat often

Even when riding with a guide, you should be trained how to use your trinity. Imagine that (s)he would be caught in an avalanche; (s)he definately appreciates it when you will be able to locate him/her and dig 'em out within the critical 15mnts!

Snow safety training day

On Wednesday 12 December I invite you for a 1 day training that deepens your basic knowledge around snowsafety. In the afternoon you will learn how to use your avalanche trinity and we will practice a rescue operation. Price €65,-pp incl. outdoor lunch. Please send me a message if you would like to join this day or if you would like to book a private trainingday for you and your own group?

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In the following post I will share 3 more lessons we could learn from the Bostan tragedy.

Thanks for your attention, don't hesitate leaving a comment on this post on FB and above all: STAY SAFE!

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