How can I prepare myself against avalanche risk before my journey?

31 October 2018 snowy mountains

Planning is a very important stage when evaluating an avalanche hazard. You will be able to better make decisions. And will also gain a better understanding of what is happening beneath the snows surface.

Weather and conditions

I can see snow on the hills and mountains. This can indicate a risk of an avalanche hazard. Make sure that before going out on your walk, check avalanche reports and weather forecasts. You should pay particular close attention to things such as rain, wind and temperature. It may also be useful to talk to people to find out how risky the hazard is.

The conditions seem windy. Windslabs form when snow is transported and becomes unstable if the wind speed is above 15mph. Make sure to check your map and using the wind direction, try and work out where snow is most likely to lie. Specifically, these are most likely to form on sheltered or lee slopes. Before you set out, make sure you read the avalanche report carefully to work out where snow is most likely to accumulate.

The conditions seem either cold or warm. Instability in the snowpack can be created if, over a couple of days, temperatures remain low. In contrast, rain and warm temperature at the level of the summit can create the same thing. Make sure you read avalanche reports on a regular basis and look at snowpack history in order to work out where instabilities may occur. Moreover, make sure to check the weather forecast every day. Paying particularly close attention to things such as wind speed/direction, rain, temperature and freezing level.

snowy mountains

You and your group

Visibility is poor. When visibility is bad, it is essential to make sure that your navigation skills are top notch. Which further reduces risks associated with avalanches. Additionally, if you can speak to anyone who has expert knowledge, this is useful. Additionally, you may want to check slope angles and shapes using a contour tool. Make sure that you make good use of a map and compass to improve your ability to navigate.

Winter conditions make me worry about my safety. Make sure to choose good clothing and equipment to help make your experience safer. Particularly, you should make sure you are confident in using tools such as crampons and ice axes. Which ensure your security and allow you to avoid avalanche prone slopes. Make sure that you carry equipment such as transceivers, probes and shovels if you plan on using skis or a snowboard. And furthermore, make sure you have plenty of experience in using them.

I am unsure about whether I am equipped and skilled enough to undertake my trip. I feel that I am unprepared. Experience is essential when undertaking a walk. You should be well prepared to walk in deep snow. And potentially harsh winter conditions. For example, blizzards or icy surfaces. If you are going to tackle steep and remote land, you will need well developed mountain skills. And be fully flexible.

Mountain landscapes

I am concerned that the slope I am going to tackle is too steep. Did you know that avalanches mainly occur on steep slopes higher than thirty degrees? Make sure that you have checked avalanche reports so you are aware the level and severity of the hazard. Specifically, check slope shapes and angles through the contour tool.

Stumbling over unstable windslabs worries me. If conditions are particularly windy, snow will become transported and form unstable windslabs above 15mph. Make sure that you check your map to work out where the snow will lie. Typically, it collects mainly on sheltered or lee slopes. Additionally, be sure to check the avalanche report so you are aware of high risk areas. You may also wish to ask local people who will have a good current knowledge.

Navigating complex terrain scares me and I am concerned about avalanche hazard risk. It is essential to use strong navigation and route finding skills to reduce risks on unstable slopes. Make sure to carefully check avalanche reports, maps and guidebooks to make sure you are aware of all the potential hazards.



The winter season is almost upon us. Why not check out the range of winter mountaineering courses available through North East OA?