AFFECTING A TRIP
Click on a subject to view it.
that can affect a trip are:
[ weather ]
[ snow conditions ]
[ experience of skiers ]
[ time available ]
first aid ] [ other
to be considered for all trips are: clothing, food,
shelter, navigation, equipment, tell someone
The weather in Kosciuszko National Park can change rapidly
(within half an hour) from calm and blue sky to a full gale with or without
snow or rain. Such changes almost never “come out of the blue” and you
will be prepared for them if you have seen an official forecast. The forecast
does not always indicate or accurately predict the severity of a change.
Always be prepared for a weather change
it safe to continue or safer to change the planned route?
an escape route planned to use if necessary.
There is no need to stay at home in bad weather. There
are many locations around Perisher and Charlotte Pass where you can find
shelter from high winds and have an enjoyable day. Even Spencers Creek
can be skied in a gale by staying in the trees on the eastern side. In
a white out navigation and skiing is easier in the trees as you have a
good visual reference. Avoid exposed ridges and saddles.
What is it like to ski in bad weather?
The best way to answer this is to go out and experience
it. Set off from Perisher on a day when the wind is blowing a gale and
blowing snow. Conditions aren't too bad when you set out from the skitube
so wear your parka but don't bother with overpants. Ski up the Kosciuszko
Road to Perisher Gap. The force of the wind slows progress and it takes
40 minutes to ski there instead of 20 minutes. By the time you get to
the top the wind has increased and the wet snow is heavier. You decide
to put on your overpants as your skipants are already getting wet. You
can't find any shelter so you stand in the wind and battle to balance
on one leg while you struggle to get them on. You finally get them on
but feel exhausted from the effort. Can your overpants be put
on while wearing ski boots? You continue on downhill to Guthries Creek
but the wind is so strong that you have to kick and double pole all the
way. Even on the steeper section down to Betts Camp you have to double
pole. It's taken an hour to Betts Camp where you stop for a rest. There
are no landmarks visible due to cloud and blowing snow. Your glasses are
fogged up making it hard to read the map and your companion is no help
as he needs spectacles to read. You are getting tired so you eat a sports
bar and an apple and have a drink of water but while getting them out
of your pack a lot of snow gets into the pack and you worry that your
camera will get wet. Doesn't matter because there is nothing to
be seen to photograph. You are starting to feel cold from standing still.
By now your gloves are wet so you put on overgloves. Water is dripping
down your neck and you feel a trickle down your front. You decide to turn
back to Perisher. If you had to spend the night here where would you
find shelter? You get back to Perisher Gap in 15 minutes and
find some shelter behind a tree for a breather but find that eddies of
wind blow snow around and that you are feeling cold. Your overgloves are
leaking because they are not good quality and your hands are freezing.
How would you feel if you had to make camp here? The ski downhill
to Perisher is harder than expected as the wind seems to be slowing you
down. How come you get a head wind in both directions? You
arrive back in Perisher cold, wet and exhausted because you only had the
one drink of water. You soon recover after a hot shower and a hot drink
and a snack but how would you be in a tent? With experience
and planning you will be able to ski and camp in such conditions and remain
warm and dry. Some days you may decide to stay inside. You will learn
to avoid long trips into the wind and will have water and snacks easy
to access. You may even enjoy skiing in such conditions.
ALWAYS OBTAIN A WEATHER FORECAST BEFORE GOING ON A
The best way to get forecasts is from the Department
of Meteorology website www.bom.gov.au
where you can quickly get forecasts, synoptic and cloud charts and four
day forecasts. The service by fax on 1902 935 227 costs about 66c. This
fax forecast does not show cloud or synoptic charts. Printed forecasts
are displayed at NPWS Visitor Centres, The Chalet at Charlotte Pass and
some ski shops. Mountain forecasts include a four day outlook predicting
weather conditions. Note that the predictions may be accurate,
the weather may be better or worse than predicted or a front may approach
quicker than predicted or bad weather may clear quicker than predicted.
In general if the forecast is for bad weather conditions, believe it and
if it is for good conditions be prepared for anything. Radio forecasts
provide less information and are adequate for resort skiing but are of
limited value for backcountry use unless bad weather is approaching.
Cloud and white out conditions can came from
any direction. One of the most memorable sights the writer has seen
was cloud spilling down the western slopes of Mt Kosciuszko until
it completely covered the Wilkinson Valley and the peaks while the
sky was clear and sunny all day at Charlotte Pass.
first sign of an approaching southerly change is whispy cirrus cloud
high in the sky. A front may be preceded by increasing north westerly
winds over a day or two that may bring rain or snow just before the
front and continuing rain or if cold enough snow with the wind change
to south westerly. Cold fronts usually start in a low pressure system
and the southerly winds will continue until the following high moves
over and past the mountains. The front in the synoptic chart pictured
followed a clear day with two days of high southerly winds and temperatures
down to -12deg.C.and a metre of snow. The cloud had cleared by midday
the third day. (Note the close isobars, the extreme low pressure and
high pressure and the isobars coming from deep in the Antarctic.)
This system passed rapidly but further cold fronts may be embedded
in the high pressure system. If the low and high systems originate
in southern polar regions the cold change will be more pronounced.
If isobars on the weather map are more numerous and close together
expect stronger winds. The passing pressure system usually gives cloud
and snow for from one to three days but following patterns can occasionally
produce six or seven days of bad weather.
Other factors affecting mountain weather are the
global pattern of cloud, troughs of low pressure from the north west
and high pressure systems giving morning fog, easterly winds may bring
rain or snow.
If cigar shaped lenticular clouds
are seen above the range or to the east it is a sign of high winds
on the mountain range.
In fine weather with westerly winds the mountain
peaks become cloud covered about midday and the cloud may extend down
for 150 to 300 metres. This is the result of fair weather moist air
being blown over the range and condensing to cloud. As the air sinks
again the cloud dissipates so there may be scattered clouds at Charlotte
Pass but clear skies at Perisher and Jindabyne. From the mountain
top the appearance is of an increasing number of cumulus clouds approaching,
passing mist and finally enveloping mist. This fair weather cloud
will dissipate about 4 pm leaving clear skies again.
On clear nights and in early morning, a campsite
may be affected by wind from an unexpected direction. This is usually
a katabatic wind caused when cold air slides down a mountainside.
Do not be fooled by a warm sunny day at Thredbo
or Jindabyne. Up on the peaks the temperature will be at least 10
degrees colder and wind can add to the chill factor and it could be
of the snow will
have melted by the end of November but note that snowfalls, thunderstorms,
heavy rain, low visibility due to low cloud, and gale force winds and
sub zero temperatures may occur at ANY time of year in Kosciuszko National
Park. Hypothermia is a risk at any time of the year. The temperature in
the high country will be at least10 degrees cooler than Jindabyne or Thredbo,
plus the wind chill factor, and there could be frost at night even in
January. The clothing and equipment needed for day walks or camping is
the same all year round. Huts can be difficult to find even without the
snow cover. Rivers may be swollen due to snow melt or heavy rain. Sunburn
is a greater problem in spring and summer. There may be fire-bans in place.
Snowfalls may be heavier and the snow stay on the ground longer from April
on and heavy snowfalls and permanent snow from June.
A frustrating thing about cross country skiing is that
you can have a great day today and ski 25 km like a champion, go out the
next day full of expectations and not be able to do a thing right and
struggle over 10 km.. Why? Because the condition of the snow has
The best snow for XC skiing is spring corn snow and
a few centimetres of fresh
dry snow on a firm base is just as good. In between are all sorts of snow
types, some of which will make skiing difficult or possibly dangerous.
The impact on trips is that progress may be much
slower than anticipated. Inexperienced skiers may have difficulty keeping
up with the group. Some snow conditions are very tiring to ski in and
unfit skiers may reach the limit of their endurance sooner. Skiers should
assess the quality of the snow on the day and make appropriate alterations
to their plans if necessary.
Damp snow will freeze when the sun goes off it and remain
frozen until the sun gets on it the next day or the air temperature warms
above freezing. Many skiers using a trail that is soft will leave many
deep ski tracks in the snow and it is difficult to ski uphill in these
tracks when they are frozen. Skiing downhill in icy rutted snow is tiring
and may be dangerous. Inexperienced or weaker skiers will be very apprehensive
on downhill sections. On the other hand untracked icy snow can allow easy
and rapid progress if there is enough give in the snow for an edge to
hold. Try to ski untracked snow within sight of a pole line if the trail
is rutted and icy.
Sometimes when there is freezing mist at night upper
slopes will be glazed with ice and numerous icy balls and lumps. Flat
areas like the upper reaches of the Snowy and Merrits Creek can get like
Icy snow may be found in patches on mountain slopes
with defined areas of softer
windblown snow. This can be negotiated on the way up by climbing on the
soft snow and on the way down completing turns in the soft patches but
coming down requires more skill than going up.
When skiing groomed trails have a fast ski early or
an easier ski by setting out when the snow starts to soften. On day trips
an early start will usually offer improving snow conditions. Inexperienced
skiers should plan to be home before the snow freezes at the end of the
day. When conditions are icy look around for an easier track somewhere.
On the faster downhill runs and on the corners of the
groomed trails the snow gets scraped and packed by snowploughs and stemmed
skis resulting in an icy or fast surface. The effect gets more pronounced
as more skiers go over it. Try skiing it with one ski running straight
on the smooth surface and the other stemmed in the soft snow.
Sun shining on snow will raise it's temperature with
radiated heat. (Notice how you can feel the warmth of the sun in the mountains
minutes after sunrise.) The eastern facing slopes will start to soften
about 10am. The northern facing slopes will soften about midday and the
western facing slopes will soften the least, later in the day. The degree
of softening will be affected by any cold or warm wind blowing over the
Some valleys or bowls are natural sun traps and seem
to concentrate the sun's rays where the snow softens and the skier feels
the heat. Climbing out of Lady Northcotes Creek and Little Austria in
the spring melts the skier as well as the snow.
Snow will often be soft in the valleys, but as the temperature
drops by about 1ºC
every 166 metres of altitude you will find that the snow gets firmer as
you climb higher. This difference in temperature affects snow on the Perisher
loops where the vertical difference is only about 80 metres as well as
on greater climbs such as Perisher to Charlotte Pass at 160 metres.
There are occasions on a warm day where new snow that
is soft and about freezing, will stick to the ski and ball up. The only
real solution to this is an application of "anti freeze" to
the patterned base of the skis but it invariably occurs when you are unprepared
for it. Fortunately a change in altitude usually brings you out of such
conditions or you can prevent the balling up by keeping the skis sliding.
Snow is classed as new on the day that it falls and
it may be dry, or damp or wet in warmer temperatures. Dry snow may retain
it's characteristics for a day or more in very cold temperatures. New
snow that is dry and fluffy will leave a lasting impression and the desire
to keep on skiing and the hope that it will still be there the next day.
When it gets deeper carve it up with telemarks. Anybody having difficulty
in skiing downhill in deeper powder snow will manage with traverses and
basic snow plough turns.
Travelling uphill in fresh snow takes longer if the
snow is deep ( the skis sink below the surface of the snow) and the patterned
base may not give as much grip. Allow extra time for a trip in these conditions
and alternate the lead to allow the trail breaker a rest. Fitting "skins"
on the skis make climbing easier in deep snow. During a snowfall, new
snow at about freezing may ball up on the patterned base of the ski.
snow usually has the effect of slowing the skis down on downhill runs.
It takes two or three days of sun and some thawing followed by overnight
freezing before new snow will consolidate and become firmer to ski on
it, rather than in it.
Wind blown snow
In strong winds the snow often does not settle in exposed
areas but if it is damp it will build up as a hard packed layer. On the
flatter areas wind blown snow will develop many wind scours that make
the surface rough. Fresh wind blown snow can cause problems because the
skier will come across patches of softer snow that tend to unbalance them.
If going out for a day trip look for leeward slopes
or sheltered areas in the trees where the snow will be more consistent.
Uncle Toby’s snow
This is delivered as porridge and is as exciting to
ski as eating burnt porridge. It is heavy and the skis forget how to turn.
If you complete a turn you feel that you will rip the bindings off the
skis or tear your boots apart.. Telemarks will work if you keep the skis
nearly parallel and edge both skis together.
It is surprisingly easy to ski on the flat and uphill but most
skiers will have difficulty on the way down. Allow extra time in this
snow and choose an open slope for descents by traversing and avoid gullies
or closely treed slopes.
This is usually heavy “wet concrete” type snow with
a frozen surface. It is difficult to ski if the skiers weight causes the
ski to break through the crust. By skiing gently you may be able to stay
on top of the crust and do stem or christy turns. If you break through
the crust skis are liable to go in different directions or edges get caught.
If the crust breaks readily you could try a jump turn to break
through the crust before completing the turn.
Allow extra time in this sort of snow, ski in control
and keep away from obstacles.
Sometimes an area will contain patches of two or more
different types of snow. There could be wind scoured rough patches with
areas of softer snow, fast snow and slow snow, deep snow and packed snow
or soft snow and firm snow or soft snow with icy patches under trees where
there has been water dripping from melting snow in the trees. Inexperienced
skiers will be hesitant in these conditions until they become accustomed
to the effect that the changes have on their skiing.
Spring corn snow
Corn snow is snow that has been repeatedly thawed in
the sun and refrozen at night and eventually has the appearance of a layer
of hailstones on a reasonably firm base. Great for skiing on for kilometre
after kilometre. Any sort of turn will work. Some slopes will get wetter
as the day goes on and become slower to ski. On gentle slopes you just
have to work harder to keep going forward.
Cornices and avalanches
DANGER IN KOSCIUSZKO NATIONAL PARK
KCros is concerned that some cross country skiers, snowboarders
or mountaineers may not be aware of the danger of avalanches in the KNP
In the winter season 2000, a combination of heavy
snowfalls and low temperatures since May produced many massive overhanging
cornices and snow conditions which favoured slope avalanches. Many slab
avalanches occurred including one on the southern face of the Sentinel
ridge that extended downwards for about a kilometre and have a slab thickness
estimated at least a metre.
Several cornices collapsed spreading debris over a
wide area below the ridge, including the Twynam West Ridge towards Watsons
Crags where the debris tumbled 200 vertical metres down almost to Watsons
Creek; and from the trig point at 1838m at the end of Crummer Spur down
to the Snowy River and in both cases fault lines appearing in the snow
indicate that more will follow.
KCros recommends that skiers do not
ski or camp anywhere below a cornice as falling debris can extend
to the bottom of the slope and even be pushed over gentle slopes
or level ground below.
should not jump off cornices as they run the risk of setting off a
slab avalanche or the cornice collapsing. It is advisable to stay at least
10 metres back from the edge of a cornice.
Because avalanches occur
only in the backcountry and are infrequent there is no formalised danger
warning procedure. Skiers who want to ski the “extreme” slopes can only
get reports of snow conditions from backcountry tour operators. KCros
will endeavour to collate any information on the cause and possibility
of avalanches in KNP as local conditions are different from those prevailing
in northern hemisphere countries where avalanche forecasting is a priority.
are formed along the top of ridges that run in a north south direction
and may be two or three metres or more in vertical height above the slope
below and are frequently overhanging. They pose a danger in a whiteout
if one falls over them. Don't ski too close to the edge of a cornice as
it may give way. Take care skiing underneath a cornice as it may avalanche
at any time, with the debris containing large blocks of snow falling to
the bottom of the slope. Cornices are found on the Watson Crags (pictured),
Kosciuszko Ridge from Cootapatamba to Muellers Peak, Etheridge Ridge,
Mt Anderson and many other main range ridges as well as lesser ridges
such as Mt Guthrie.
are not common in the Australian mountains but they do occur. In July
1956 an avalanche off Mt Clarke destroyed Kunama Lodge. They may occur
after a moderate to heavy snowfall on a firm or icy base and are usually
formed on the leeward slope. They are not restricted to steep and long
slopes but can occur in a small area on relatively gentle slopes. The
avalanche pictured (right) occurred about 10 am in mid August 2000 after
about 1 metre of snow built up on the slope in the previous day and night.
It is located just above the Kosciuszko Rd. on the ridge to the south
of Guthrie trig on a slope that is quite skiable by an intermediate telemarker.
The slab slid from the top third of the slope and almost buried a small
tree in the centre with debris covering the bottom two thirds of the slope.
The slab thickness was measured at 75 cm and parts of the debris were
slabs up to 2 metres square. Fortunately the photographer was traversing
above the avalanche when it occurred (the track in knee deep snow is visible
in the top right corner). The result of a skier being caught in this avalanche
could have been fatal.
Photo at left shows a large block of frozen snow and
other debris that dislodged from a cornice on the main range.
The photo at left shows a slab avalanche on the Mt Sentinel
Ridge that occurred sometime prior to 13 September 2000. Four skiers skied
the creek depression on the ridge behind on the day that this photo was
taken and descended towards Strzelecki Ck then climbed up to the ridge
on the left and then climbed left of the cornice. Parties skiing slopes
such as these should be aware of the risk of avalanches occurring. Accounts
of avalanches may be read in "Skiing the Western Faces Kosciusko"
written by Alan Andrews. (Mt Jagungal in the background)
THE SKIER’S EXPERIENCE
WHAT IS EXPERIENCE?
Experience is knowledge and skills gained from life
by contact with events. Experience is relative. A skier who has skied
500km around the Perisher Loops has a lot to learn about the backcountry.
A skier who has made a trip from Charlotte Pass to Mt Kosciuszko has very
little experience of the backcountry. Someone who has been on several
backcountry trips may have gained little experience if they just skied
blindly at the back of the line. A bit like the "experienced"
car driver who travels thousands of kilometres every year but has an accident
on icy roads. A skier who goes into the snow country and is aware of their
surroundings, and aware of the things that make the trip easy, difficult
or impossible will have gained useful experience and will acquire skills
that will enable them to plan and conduct a trip easily and safely. A
skier may have 25 years exposure to ski touring but will continue to come
across situations or conditions that are new or different and the "experienced"
skier will have the skills to make the journey safe and enjoyable.
The effect of age.
Children can learn to XC ski at an early age and at
7 or 8 years old can ski up to 5 or 6 km a day in good weather. Children
have less stamina, less strength for technical skiing and less will to
continue when tired or cold so trips and activities should be planned
at a level that is comfortable for them. They can become frightened by
height and steep slopes unless they are introduced to them gradually.
When they graduate to steeper climbs such as going up Mt Guthrie they
should follow a leader who will pick out the best route and they should
be guided down again on the safest traverses. Boredom is usually a bigger
problem that lack of energy so avoid long treks by skiing for a kilometre
or so and then digging a snow cave, playing games, looking for foxes
or having a picnic.
Children are good imitators and love learning
so teach them to telemark or use a compass.
Children must not be allowed to ski without an adult
being present as they lack an understanding of how to react in an emergency.
years may have little effect on an experienced and fit XC skier. They
may slow down a little but they can do it smarter and their stamina can
be the equal of younger people. Results in the KAC 8 km race show that
there is not a lot of difference in the times of people in the 50 to 70
age bracket. The winner of the men’s over 70 age group in 1999 was faster
than 70% of the finishers. The men in the over 80 class take about 1½ hours
and enjoy it immensely.
When planning a trip take account of the age and
experience of the skiers to determine a distance and route that will be
achievable and enjoyable for all. The weather conditions and snow conditions
will also have a bearing on the feasibility, safe conduct and success
of the trip.
This is dependant on the length of the day, the starting
time and the amount of time spent resting, waiting for others, having
fun skiing downhill and meal breaks.
The KAC ski race from Perisher
to Charlotte Pass on a prepared track is a good indicator of how ability
affects the time taken to ski 8 km be able to keep on skiing. The winner
will skate the distance in about 25 minutes and be able to ski back to
Perisher immediately. An experienced classical skier takes about 50 minutes,
while the majority of skiers who have done a bit of cross country skiing
finish in under 1¼ hours and can ski back after a lunch
break. An alpine skier who has never used XC skis before is often highjacked
into the event and can do it in about 1¾ hours
but will not have the energy to ski back to Perisher. Anyone who has never
skied before should not attempt this event.
Plan an early start for day trips.
Always plan to get back home an hour before last light.
Not only does the snow freeze late in the day but it can be difficult
finding your way after dark. If you are not home by the appointed time
warn your friends to check at the pub before raising the alarm but if
you head off somewhere else make a phone call to tell them that you are
The time taken for a trip should be monitored through
the trip to make sure that the camp or lodge will be arrived at within
the allotted time. It is better to turn back before the goal is reached
than to be caught out late. The actual time taken will vary according
to all the variables listed and the route taken.
cross country skiing is a low risk activity when care is taken. The risk
of injury is low but if a person has to be evacuated from the snow there
can be a long delay before rescue occurs and the greatest risks to the
victim are the effects of shock and cold. For this reason any party going
more than half an hour from a village would be advised to carry at least
one sleeping mat and a first aid kit, and a space blanket for each person.
The knowledge gained in attaining a first aid certificate is useful and
additional skills will be attained in a remote area first aid course.
For information go to www.stjohn.org.au
sunburn of the eye tissue which is extremely painful with inflamed eyes
that feel gritty. It is prevented by wearing sunglasses and treated by
rest in a darkened room for 3 days and antibiotic or antiseptic eye drops
guard against infection.
can be prevented
by applying a factor 30 sunscreen. Best applied half an hour before going
outside. Add a layer of white or coloured zinc if extra protection needed.
The treatment for bad sunburn is to stay out of the sun or seek medical
advice if severe.
On warm sunny days resist the temptation to ski
without clothes. You will not feel the effects of sunburn as the temperature
is low but after even a short time you will have severe sunburn.
Very severe sunburn may need medical treatment.
be prevented or treated by frequent applications of a lip balm containing
by ill fitting or new boots. Wear in new leather boots around the backyard
and soften them with leather dressing. Blisters are preventable. If they
are known to be a problem tape the affected part of the foot with Beiersdorf
Fixomul® tape BEFORE going skiing. This prevents rubbing of the skin and
is most effective in preventing blisters. If a blister forms or you can
feel an irritation, catch it early before it gets too big or breaks and
apply one or two layers of the tape, or a layer of the tape covered with
a shiny zinc oxide tape. This will prevent the blister getting worse.
Leave the tape on until it washes off, unless there is throbbing or pain
indicating that a blister has formed.
If a small blister forms or the skin breaks the best
chance of still skiing is to stick a Scholl felt bunion ring around the
blister and tape it in position. Do not apply bandaids over blisters or
tender areas as they will cause more rubbing. Tea tree oil applied to
the blister will help it heal and is antiseptic.
If taping fails or the blister is not caught early enough
(see picture) then Spenco Blister treatment will enable you ski back home.
The blisters pictured occurred years ago before effective prevention was
available. Blisters should never reach this stage and now skiing is out
of the question and rest is the only cure and the blistered area should
be kept clean. There is a risk of infection.
or other infection may
affect someone while out skiing and is most likely to occur on the first
or second day in the snow. They may not feel 100%, but will set out in
the morning apparently well and will suddenly over the period of an hour
or less fall behind the group, feel tired, lack energy, lose their appetite
and at that point be unable to struggle on for more than half to one hour.
Evacuation or a diversion to safety may be necessary. It is important
that they are forced to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and
although they may have a temperature, they should be kept warm and sheltered
can be supported
well enough with a crepe bandage for the victim to continue skiing. On
a fine day the affected area can be packed with snow immediately for 10
to 20 minutes to reduce swelling and pain. Otherwise apply snow when shelter
is reached and avoid heat .
rare in XC skiing but as it takes 5 triangular bandages to immobilize
a leg fracture we recommend that each skier carry a triangular bandage
and a crepe bandage. These bandages are also necessary to treat a head
or eye injury. Serious injuries need the help of a trained first
aider. Do you have a trained first aider in your party? For
more information on wilderness first aid contact WFAC from the links page.
Frostnip and frostbite are best prevented by dry clothing
that is suitable for the conditions. Wear balaclavas, parka hoods and
undergloves and overgloves in very cold conditions. A frost bitten nose
is a possibility from skiing into a blizzard for an extended period unless
it is covered.
Frostnip is common with the affected hands, feet, ears
or face being cold and white and feeling cold and painful. Treated by
applying warmth to the area which will cause temporary pain and throbbing.
Cold fingers may be warmed by swinging the arms rapidly in a circle for
20 revolutions to get the blood to the fingers.
Frostbite occurs as white, hard and painless tissue
that has no feeling as the tissue is frozen. The treatment is immersion
in warm water about 40 deg.C and warming the whole body. Care must be
taken that the affected area does not refreeze or the resulting damage
is worse so thawing may be best delayed in the snow if the victim can
reach civilisation in a short time. In a shelter in the snow, the best
treatment is as for hypothermia with shared body heat.
In cold and / or wet conditions inadequate clothing,
tiredness and insufficient food can combine to cause a lowering of normal
body temperature (hypothermia) which can result in collapse or death if
- Victim is exhausted, incapable of rational thought
and action, lags behind, stumbles, may have slurred speech and appear
drunk, and is reluctant to keep walking or skiing.
- Cold hands, feet and face are not necessarily a sign
of hypothermia but a victim's abdomen is cold to touch.
- Pulse is slow and shallow. They may be difficult
to reason with.
- Shivering is the body's first reaction to cold in
an attempt to warm it. People with hypothermia may not be shivering.
When shivering stops a major emergency is imminent.
- Be aware, signs of hypothermia are often mistaken
- If the victim becomes unconscious check for pulse
and resuscitate if necessary while warming them by any means.
Treat the victim IMMEDIATELY by providing shelter
and warmth, dry clothes and beanie, sleeping bag or shared body
warmth. Warm the person from the inside out and avoid excessive external
heat such as placing them near a fire or rubbing the skin. Once in shelter,
avoid moving the victim until they recover. Give warm sweet tea if the
person is conscious. As they recover encourage them to eat.
Let their body temperature rise gradually and allow
them to rest. Do NOT give alcohol or cigarettes. Send for outside help
OTHER PROBLEMS SOLVED
A broken stock can be repaired by splinting it with a length of conduit
that has been sawn in half lengthwise and binding it tightly with cord.
A broken ski tip makes
the ski useless unless a spare ski tip is carried. A broken ski or binding
may be repaired enough to walk on by using gaffa tape or cord and epoxy.
A broken boot can
be bound with tape.
Avoid walking on gravel roads to protect the
boot soles. Drying boots or leather items in front of a fire may damage
Gear is less likely to fail during a trip if it is well
cared for and maintained and checked before using. Keep leather treated
with dubbin, Sno-seal® or other leather
preserver. Check the screws in bindings and the workings of adjustable
stocks. A little smear of lip salve on the adjusting bolt thread
will make stocks easier to adjust and prevent rust. Do not over tighten
or they may be impossible to adjust in the snow. Is the gear suitable
for the trip that is planned? Check the tent for frayed spots and frayed guy ropes. Know
how many pegs you need and make sure they are all collected when camp
The most efficient and safest stoves to use are the
MSR brand. Check the stove before each trip. Are there any fuel leaks?
Does it work? Do you have sufficient fuel?
If you are lucky there will be a good snow bridge. The
only sure way of testing if a snow bridge is sound is to send the bravest
member of the party across first. Cracks appearing in the bridge should
cause caution. Is the bridge well supported by rocks or is it arched?
Are there recent tracks over the bridge. Will you be able to get out
of the water if the bridge gives way? Ski across quickly one
at a time. If there is any doubt do not use the bridge.
flat areas a creek frequently floods an area adjacent to the creek and
a large area can become frozen. In the thaw these areas should be treated
with caution in case you break through over a deeper section of water.
If a river has to be waded care should be taken if the
water is fast flowing. Try to pick the smoothest area of water. Wearing
sandshoes or wetsuit boots will give more secure footsteps and keep ski
boots dry. If water is fast flowing and above the knees consider looking
for another crossing. A crossing that is unsafe for one person can often
be safely crossed by two or three people who cross in a line parallel
to the flow, bracing themselves with arms linked and around a pair of
Rivers may rise rapidly following rain. In good weather
they are usually lower in the morning and rise a bit during the day.
Make sure that your skis and poles are secure and will
not be dropped as they will quickly float away out of reach. Undo the
waistband on your pack so that you will not be trapped if you fall in.
If you do fall in wring out wet clothes or use dry ones if possible but
if it is very windy just put on parka and overpants and ski to find shelter
before attempting to dry out.
If in doubt about the safety of a river crossing
DON’T CROSS, stay put, go back or go the long way round.
All the warnings say never ski alone. The ideal minimum
number in a party is four so that in the event of having to go for help
one person can stay with the victim and two can go for help. Three in
a party is almost as good. If you ski as a couple then the victim must
be left alone while the other person goes for help. Having a number of
people on a trip increases the chance of solving problems of navigation.
In a large party make sure that someone is at the end of the line to look
after the stragglers. In a large group consider breaking into a fast group
and a slow group, each with a leader. If part of a group decides to ski
off away from the group make sure you tell the group.
In spite of the warning many people ski alone and overall
very few incidents arise but one skier is lucky to be alive after breaking
a leg, crawling several kilometres through the snow before being found
by a passing group. He owed his life to staying calm. If you chose to
ski alone at least plan the trip carefully, take adequate survival gear,
tell someone where you are going and reassess risk throughout the trip.
Avoid high risk situations like fast, steep skiing or difficult terrain.
If anything goes wrong you are on your own, rescue will be delayed and
you have only yourself to blame.
LOST or DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?
Not sure where you are?
there someone in another group to ask? Can you climb to higher ground
to have a look?
Follow the suggestions below.
calm. Stay where you are.
the weather is clear study
your map and go over where you have been. Do the features that you
can see match any details on the map? Can
you climb higher to get a better view that will establish your position?
Can you back track to your
last known position? Can
you take two bearings on known features to establish your position?
Even one bearing will give you a zone of probability. Being lost
on a fine day should not happen if you refer to the map and compass early
when first covering new ground and if you keep confirming your position
on the map at frequent intervals or major features. If you are in trees
and do not seem to be getting where you expect consider retracing your
track and trying another way, or taking a new course to intercept a known
If visibility is poor or in a whiteout
stay calm and stay put. Check on the map for your last known
reference point and draw a circle or arc on the map over the area
where you could be situated. Can you recognize any landmarks? Can
you retrace your track and start again? Were
your compass bearings correct? Is
there a direction to ski that will safely take you to a pole line, a road
or a major feature like a river? What are the dangers in continuing or
Do you have a GPS unit to determine your position? Take
steps to get warm and dry or remain warm.
If you are lost on the Rams Head Range between Thredbo
and Perisher do not attempt to travel down through the bush to the Thredbo
River as the bush is dense, you will break through snow cover and be up
to your neck in scrub and will quickly be exhausted and very difficult
for a search party to find.
If you are lost it is best to stay where you are. If
you are forced to spend a night out in the snow without a tent you can
do a lot to make the night more comfortable
there is no way you can find your way out or if you are out of food,
or injured and in danger can you summon help with a mobile phone?
If not, do you have an EPIRB to activate?
out of the wind. If possible get into a treed area or find a feature
that will provide a windbreak. Make preparations before dark if time
a snow cave or a shelter from wind and rain. Make a shelter by digging
a hole or building a wall and using skis and a space blanket for a roof.
branches off trees to make a floor and more to crawl under if necessary.
upturned skis to make a floor.
food if necessary but look for water and drink plenty.
on all your clothes and hat. Keep
your boots on but put your feet and legs inside your pack if possible
or use it to sit on.
wet clothes on if wearing thermals but put on dry sox and gloves if
together or in a foetal position and wrap in a space blanket to conserve
a fire if there is sufficient dry wood to get one started.
not smoke or drink alcohol as both increase blood circulation in the
skin and cause loss of body heat.
calm and try to sleep.
daybreak reassess your situation.
that you have
read all the content of the KCros website on backcountry safety go out
and enjoy your skiing. The risk of a serious incident is definitely reduced
with good planning. View
the disclaimer for this website before
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