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Avalanche: saving yourself and others

In most avalanche situations, any defensive action is very difficult. Movement relative to the debris is often impossible.

However, some of the following may be useful:

  • Try to delay departure by plunging an ice axe into the under-surface. This may help to keep you near the top of the slide
  • Shout. Others may see you
  • Try to run to the side, or jump up-slope above the fracture
  • If hard slab, try to remain on top of a block
  • Get rid of gear, sacks, skis etc
  • Try to roll like a log, off the debris
  • Swimming motions sometimes help
  • As the avalanche slows down, you may be able to get some purchase on the debris. Make a desperate effort to get to the surface, or at least get a hand through
  • Keep one hand in front of your face and try to clear and or maintain an air space
  • Try to maintain space for chest expansion by taking and holding a deep breath
  • Try to avoid panic and conserve energy. Your companions are probably searching for you

If you witness an avalanche burial:

  • Observe the victim's progress and if possible mark the point of entry and point at where the victim was last seen
  • Check for further avalanche danger
  • Make a QUICK SEARCH of the debris surface
    • LOOK for any signs of victims
    • LISTEN for any sounds
    • PROBE the most likely burial spots
  • Make a SYSTEMATIC SEARCH, probing the debris with axes or poles
  • Send for help
  • KEEP SEARCHING until help arrives
  • REMEMBER YOU ARE THE BURIED VICTIM'S ONLY REAL CHANCE OF LIVE RESCUE. Although survival chances decline rapidly with duration of burial, they do not reach zero for a long time.

This series of videos from Glenmore Lodge examines techniques for searching with avalanche transceiver and probes and for digging for different burial depths.

Part 1 Using an avalanche transceiver - coarse and fine search

Part 2 Using an avalanche probe

Part 3 Avalanche search - shallow digging

Part 4 Avalanche search - deeper digging

Part 5 Avalanche search - digging with two people

Mountain rescuers at a call-out on Buachaille Etive Mor