Weekly Stoke: Surviving in a snow cave, avalanche tragedy, lost hikers found and a different kind of bike ride

Something I’ve thought about doing for some time is posting some things in the news that I’ve seen that might interest folks like you and me. So I’m going to set aside a weekly space for some of the stories that caught my attention, and might also stoke yours. Thus is born the Weekly Stoke!

Here goes…

Mount Hood. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Hood. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

A hiker in Oregon got herself in a bit of trouble on Mount Hood, slipping and falling and injuring her leg. She was able to dig out a snow cave where she rode it out six days before being rescued. Check out the full story and a video here.

A less uplifting story out of Colorado. Some backcountry skiers got caught in a large avalanche, and not all of them survived to tell the tale. An excellent write-up from the Denver Post can be found here.

A day hike in Southern California turned out to be a much more serious ordeal for a group of young hikers this week. This story ends well, however.

And finally, a final tip of the hat to winter on one of the more interesting bike rides you will ever see. Watch the video:

Video: More outdoor awesomeness

I figured this would be a good time for a mid-week video distraction. This three-minute video is filled with some incredible outdoor cinematography in some of the most striking scenery you’ll ever see. It’s compiled by Renan Ozturk of Reel 2013.

Check it out and enjoy it. And have a great day! — Bob

RENAN OZTURK // DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY // REEL 2013 from Camp 4 Collective on Vimeo.

Video: ‘The Joy of Air’

Just providing a public service with this mid-day video distraction of awesomeness. Put on the headphones, watch cyclists, boarders, skiers and more catch big air, and enjoy a pretty sweet narrative.

Sometimes to feel free, you have to catch some air. Enjoy. — Bob

The Joy of Air from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.

New York Times goes deep on the Tunnel Creek avalanche at Stevens Pass

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Usually I don’t plug an article or a series of articles in this space. I save that for Twitter. But this one deserves a little extra mention.

On Feb. 18, a group of expert backcountry skiers and snowboarders went to an out-of-bounds area near the Stevens Pass ski area in Washington state, setting out to take advantage of mounds of fresh powder that had fallen there.

The group had 16 people in it. Some time after noon that day, they headed down the back side of Cowboy Mountain, known to locals as Tunnel Creek.

An avalanche broke free during their descent, killing three.

The New York Times interviewed many members of the group who were there as well as loved ones of those who died. This is a multi-part story and it’s pretty long, but worth the read. The website also includes video interviews of the subjects, audio files of emergency calls made to first responders and multimedia presentations illustrating the avalanche and how it swept three top-notch skiers to their deaths. It’s also available in an e-book called “Snow Fall.”

Take some time to read it — it’s worth it. With apologies to Outside magazine, this is some of the best outdoors reporting and writing you will see. It’s also an excellent lesson to anyone who wants to take part in wintertime backcountry adventures.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Do you know where you’re going without your GPS?

How heavily do you depend on one of these?

I have some friends who do not like to run trails by themselves. Or more specifically, they don’t like to do it at my city’s urban wilderness area.

It’s not really a question of being in danger or anything like that. It’s a question of getting lost.

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness has a pretty extensive network of trails, and it’s easy to get off track.

Heck, I get off track almost every time I go there. I can count the number of times I’ve actually stayed on track on my hands, and I’ve been running there for quite a while now.

Not that I’m worried. Because I know which direction is south. And south will always get me back to the trailhead.

More specifically, I know enough about the topography of the area (Turkey Mountain is a north-south ridge) and the position of the sun to determine which direction I’m headed. If I ever get “lost,” even in the depths of the trees, I know which way leads me back to the trailhead.

I’m not bragging here, because this is no great skill. But notice what’s missing. When I’m out on the trail, I don’t look down at an electronic device to tell me where I am or where I’m going.

There are a few reasons for this. I don’t like carrying a lot of stuff with me when I run or hike. But I also think that it’s important to be knowledgeable about where you are and where you’re going before you actually get out there.

A great place to be, but doing a little homework about this kind of area is a sure-fire way to steer clear of trouble, especially if the batteries in your GPS die.

GPS devices and other gadgets designed to assist in these tasks and bolster safety are great. There are probably thousands of stories of people who got lost, consulted a device on their wrist, then got re-oriented and back home safely.

But there is a danger to becoming too reliant on a mini-circuit board with an LED screen telling you what to do.

Batteries run out. They break. Sometimes they don’t give you accurate information.

Case in point: A Canadian man and his wife traveling in Nevada got stranded in their car after their GPS got them off track. He left to find help, still using that GPS, and died about six miles from a nearby town. His remains were found earlier this month by hunters, 18 months after he got lost. His wife stayed in the van, stranded for 48 days, and survived.

I wonder if a paper map might have worked out a little better.

There are other stories of people who drive to a cliff’s edge by slavishly following their GPS. One guy even died after driving his car into the ocean.

And these are drivers!

On the trail, I can remember numerous instances where a GPS told us a mountain was in one direction when we could clearly see it somewhere completely different.

And then there are the emergency locator devices. These are invaluable tools for those who are going into remote areas, backcountry ski locales, etc., where a mishap can be deadly if rescue can’t come quickly enough.

A great safety tool, but they’ve been abused to the point where some search and rescue personnel call them “Yuppie 911.”

Unfortunately, some people abuse these tools. A few years ago, I wrote about “Yuppie 911,” cases where people went into the backcountry, got tired, thirsty, wet or just weren’t having fun anymore, and hit the button on their SPOT beacon. Others, seeing the beacon as a safety net, will try things they wouldn’t ordinarily try. Like maybe a tougher hike, scramble or climb, one in which they’d hope for rescue if they got stuck or hurt.

Electronics are great. They can be helpful tools. But I would think that they should be something used alongside the knowledge you already possess about the places where you’re going. Unfortunately, they’re becoming an electronic crutch.

How reliant are you on things like GPS devices, locator beacons and other electronics? Are they an integral part of your trail running, hiking and backpacking plans? Or do they take a lesser role? And do you prefer more Old School methods of orienteering?

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Climbing, hiking and technology: 14ers.com introduces its iPhone app

Take 14ers.com with you anywhere you go with its new iPhone app.

As if Colorado’s high country aficionados don’t blow enough time surfing the 14ers.com website. Now they can do it on their iPhones.

14ers.com, the website that posts route information, trip reports, trailhead conditions and a highly trafficked forum, introduced its iPhone app this week.

It’s a pretty comprehensive app. Check out the peak list and it will give you detailed information about established routes on each of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, including photos. You can also get trailhead conditions, maps, directions and peak stats.

Here’s a better breakdown that the site sent to users:

The app interacts real-time with 14ers.com data so there’s no need to push content updates through the app store when changes are made on 14ers.com. It conveniently stores information and images for offline use or in the backcountry, when you don’t have an Internet connection.

14er Peak lists

14er Overview Map

Peak Stats

Trailheads and Driving Directions

Trailheads on Google Maps

Road Difficulty Ratings

Route Descriptions

Route Topo Maps

Route Google Maps with route overlays

Route Photos (yes, all of them!)

Multi-Route Overview Maps

User-contributed Peak Condition Updates

User-contributed Trailhead Condition/Road Updates

All available real-time from the site and will stay on your device for use when you’re off-the-grid. If someone adds a Peak or Trailhead conditions update to the site, you can get it as soon as it’s on 14ers.com.

Best of all: It’s free. The app is also available for Android phones.

So as long as you can get reception and you have your phone, last-minute details about the peak you want to bag are going to be pretty close by.

Site founder Bill Middlebrook’s next challenge? It might be asking a bit much, but some of us might clamor for a 13ers.com app soon.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

People are awesome video: Folks doing amazing things

For your weekend viewing pleasure, I give you this video. Slacklining, BASE jumping, freestyle skiing, and just about anything else you can imagine, done at the edge of human performance. Enjoy.

Four skiers killed in Washington avalanches

In what has been a tricky avalanche season across the west, the worst possible news came Sunday when an avalanche broke loose, killing three skiers in a backcountry area in Washington state. A fourth was killed in a separate, unrelated incident.

According to an Associated Press report, there were about a dozen people skiing in deep powder on the back side of Stevens Pass when the avalanche struck. All 12 were caught up in it, but most were able to dig themselves out.

The three who were killed were swept about 1,500 feet down a chute in Tunnel Creek Canyon, the AP reported.

The skiers were all described as experienced and well-equipped, the report said. CNN reported that all the skiers were wearing avalanche beacons.

CNN identified those killed in that slide as Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph and John Brenan. Jack was a ski tour judge for the Freeskiing World Tour, an event for high-level extreme skiers in the U.S., Canada and South America, CNN reported.

A fourth skier who was caught in the slide was saved by an avalanche safety device she was wearing, the report said, though it didn’t make clear what device that was. CNN reported that it was an airbag-type system that helped the skier stay above the surface of the avalanche.

Those who survived tried CPR on the three victims, but to no avail.

The report said authorities had issued a high avalanche danger in areas over 5,000 feet because of warmer weather and heavy weekend snowfall — up to two feet in some places.

The report cited the Colorado Avalanche Information Center as saying there had been  13 avalanche deaths this season across the West as of Thursday.

Other media reports say that a snowboarder was killed an another avalanche in a different area. No identification was made in that incident.

Video: ‘Baffin Island: A Skier’s Journey’

As long as we’re going to chill over the weekend, how about sitting down and watching this awesome ski video by Jordan Manley about a ski trip at Baffin Island, Canada? About 15 minutes, and amazing. It might be some of the coolest backcountry ski video you’ve seen. Try to watch in full screen mode.

Enjoy your weekend!

Baffin Island: A Skier’s Journey EP2 [Season 2] from Jordan Manley Photography on Vimeo.