In the lead up to Christmas I was lucky enough to get invited to an Avatech training and awareness day offered to the British Mountain Guides. Avatech rep Craig Widdicombe who happens to be my neighbour, hence the invite, ran the course. For those of you who have not yet seen the Avatech system, its a smart probe that gives you a snow profile in under 30 seconds. Compared to a manual pit which could take 30 minutes! The probe has a pressure sensor built into the tip that records the different resistances offered by the layers in the snow.
We started off in the classroom with a run through the application, its layout, how snowprofile data and associated observations / photographs are input and how to find historical data for your chosen route or ski area. Data from the probe is transmitted by Bluetooth to the app on your smart phone where it is uploaded to Avatech’s site. The interface is really user friendly and intuitive so its pretty easy to find your way around. It also incorporates a map system which can be used for your route planning.
The system has already become popular amongst the professionals in north America where it is hailed as a game changer. Meteo France and the Italian avalanche forecasters have also invested in a number of probes. A probe costs around 1800 Euros so its a significant investment but you can subscribe to have access to the website on an annual basis. The real benefit is if these become the industry standard and a number of snow profiles are performed on a particular slope of pitch giving subscribers a good overall picture of the stability on that particular slope.
Screenshot from the Avatech site showing the mapping system with data and observations
Like herding cats, a ‘clowder’ of British Mountain Guides searching for a snow profile location
Andy Perkins and Craig Widdicombe confirming suitable snow depths
Craig deploying the Avatech probe
A snow crystal comparator plate
Taking snow temperature profile
Manual recording of the snow profile in the field
Shovel shear test result.
The Avatech probe showing the snow profile. The resolution here was set to low to compare with the manual profile however it was obvious the Avatech probe has the sensitivity to pick up very thin layers which could possibly be missed on the manual pit.
For New Year in the Chamonix valley we will all be snorting vaporised WKD alcopops – wtf is in that smog?
The first adventure of the season was to an often overlooked line that provided superb situations and stunning views. About 1000 m up from the glacier lands you at the top of the line. Despite being on the sunny side it was bitterly cold and my feet were continuously painful and on the wrong side of cold. The prolonged exposure to the cold in Baffin has definitely taken its toll and I will be investing in some warmer liners later in the week! After months of solid office work it feels great to be back into the mountain and synchronising with the natural rhythm of life, having fun and working the body hard.
This week we Dave Searle and myself went back to the Miage Glacier under Mont Blanc’s Himalayan sized West Face with the idea to have a semi-rest day and camp on day 1 and then get and early start and ski a line mid-morning before it got too hot. I had some expedition kit to test out so this provided the perfect opportunity.
Chilling out in the evening.
Our line for the day on looker’s right
I headed into the neighbour’s back garden the other day with the usual suspects; Liz Daley (armed with her perma-stoke), Davide de Masi and Dave Searle. Our efforts were well rewarded and we found exceptional rip-able powder waiting for us in this long hallway. A fantastic day which was ended with a beer ontop of a mountain in the sun.