Snow School: The Best Way to Slip Slide to Safety

–Submitted by Matthew Lettington

The sun blazed down on the abandoned alpine ski runs at Mount Washington. We organized ourselves in the parking lot under blue bird skies.

We talked about crampons and ice axes, techniques for attaching it to backpacks and how to hold them. We set out to the Eagle and walked up the slopes below. As it gradually became steeper we practiced self-belay technique and the technique for kicking steps on steep slopes.

At various points we stopped and practiced the all important self arrests. The first stop was hilarious, we barely able to start moving. But, these first slides set the foundation for the movements needed farther up the slopes.

It was just after one as we reached our final destination for the day, a good ledge for sitting on at about 1600 m. The slope dropped off near 40 degrees below us. We chatted about the practice and technique before giving practice one last go! A few members were brave and took running starts to tumble head over heals onto the slopes sliding on their chests, or backs head first downhill, then driving the pick of their mountaineering axes deep into the slopes. As we practiced the snow softened and soon we were able to get good speeds build up to approximate an uncontrolled slide. I am delighted to say that everyone was able to do it a few times, and some even mastered the technique.

self arrest!


Returning to the car we plunge stepped and glissaded down the steep slopes, laughing as we went. We arrived safe and sound before 3 PM. The chatter and planning I heard let me know that folks enjoyed their experiences.




Leave a Reply