Our website uses cookies throughout our system and to help us provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or click here to change your settings

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.

The avalanche probe is the main tool used in searching avalanche debris for buried victims. This video shows how a search should be conducted.

It's vital that a buried avalanche victim is uncovered as quickly as possible. This video shows where to start digging when your probe reveals a casualty close to the surface, and explains how to dig for maximum speed and efficiency.

If the probe shows the casualty is deeply buried, you should adopt a different approach to avoid disturbing any air pockets and to reach the person as quickly as possible.

Two people can make lighter work of digging out a casualty, but only if they work together efficiently. This video shows how to dig as a team for faster results.

Scottish Mountain Rescue

Scottish Mountain Rescue

Glenmore Lodge - the national outdoor training centre

Glenmore Lodge

Mountain Training Scotland

Mountain Training

Snowsports Scotland

Snowsport Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Association of Mountaineering Instructors