An avalanche is a mass of snow that moving on the slope of the mountain at a speed of up to 20-30 meters per second. It can be caused by earthquakes, melting ice, prolonged snowfall or careless actions of people.

An avalanche can cause serious injury. In addition, people who fall under it are squeezed by the packed snow and quickly suffocate.

To survive in an avalanche, you should remember and follow a few important rules.

How to prepare for a hike in the mountains

What to do if you are caught in an avalanche
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Before you travel through the mountains, you should prepare for possible difficulties. You need to receive training on how to behave in emergencies, purchase special equipment and carefully monitor the weather and terrain. The best way to survive an avalanche is to simply avoid it.

Take an avalanche safety course

If you are a skier, snowboarder, hiker or snowmobile owner, do not neglect the opportunity to attend avalanche safety courses in advance. Typically, these activities occupy one or more days and stand from 15,000 rubles. This is a small fee for theoretical and practical training that can save your life.

Get your rescue gear

That’s what it’s worth purchase.

  • Avalanche receiver, also known as a beeper or transceiver. This device sends radio signals on the standard for all beepers at a frequency of 457 kHz. This will allow rescuers or members of the marching group to quickly find the person covered by the avalanche.
  • Avalanche probe. A thin folding rod from 1 to 6 meters long, which allows you to search for people caught in an avalanche. This thing will help if the bandmates are covered with snow.
  • Avalanche shovel. Needed to dig out victims and equipment from under the snow. Choose aluminum because plastic becomes brittle in the cold.
  • Helmet. Many deaths in an avalanche are due to the fact that a person is knocked down by a stream of snow, he falls and receives a fatal head injury. A helmet is simply necessary in the mountains.
  • First aid kit. Don’t forget to take a first aid course so you know how to properly use its contents.

The following tools are less common, but they are also extremely useful.

  • Avalanche airbag, aka avalanche backpack. it mechanism, hanging on the back and, when activated, inflates large containers with air. Helps to float in the snow and also protects against bumps and injuries.
  • Avalanche air supply system, or AvaLung. Allows breathe under the snow for 30-40 minutes. Most of those caught in an avalanche die from carbon dioxide asphyxiation. AvaLung takes him aside, increasing the chances of survival.

Instructions are included with all equipment. Study them as carefully as possible and memorize them.

Get to know the avalanche environment

Before visiting the mountains, you should always get data on the weather conditions in this area. When you go to a resort or base, you need to look at their website and see there the latest news about the avalanche situation.

Avalanche danger is usually rated on a five-point scale and can be found in local weather reports.

Do not go out in the mountains in snowfall and bad weather. Before departure, find out the places of possible avalanches on your route. Make sure that in the place of your walk there are no works on their artificial gathering.

Avoid dangerous places

Remember: whatever the weather, do not cross the hollows with slopes more than 30°: they are the most avalanche-prone.

If there are no trees and shrubs around, then the slope becomes dangerous already at a steepness exceeding 20 °. Slopes with an angle greater than 45° become so with almost every snowfall.

Before crossing slopes with a steepness of more than 20° after a snowfall, you must wait at least 2 or 3 days. The most dangerous periods are spring and summer, from 10 am to sunset.

What to do before an avalanche

What to do if you are caught in an avalanche
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These actions should be performed when you see that the snow on the slope begins to crumble.

Jump up the slope

Often the victims of an avalanche are those who themselves caused it by a careless movement. If you feel like the snow is starting to fall right under you, try jump up the slope above the break line so as not to be in the center of the stream.

This must be done in the first second, and then he will pass below you. But the technique only works with an avalanche that originates under your feet, and not with a stream coming from above.

Move away from the avalanche

If you see that a snow stream is moving towards you, do not try to run away from it down the slope: it will catch up with you. Instead, immediately move to the side, perpendicular to the avalanche. That way you can get out of her way before she gets to you.

The avalanche is weaker at the edges than in the middle. Having moved away from the central part of the stream, you reduce chance of falling, rolling and injury.

Experienced skiers can outrun an avalanche at a 45-degree angle, but this requires great freeriding skills. Do not take risks, move perpendicular to the flow, not obliquely.

Throw away unnecessary equipment

To survive in an avalanche, the body must be as light as possible: this increases the chances of staying on the surface without sinking into the snow. Therefore it is worth throw off all the extra equipment you can.

Take off your backpack. Get rid of skis and poles. Zip up your clothing to keep snow out.

Throw heavy objects and equipment away from you so that they roll along with the avalanche and do not injure you.

Activate your avalanche beacon. Many tourists simply forget about it, and it becomes useless. Turn off your headphones and player if they are still on.

What to do during an avalanche

What to do if you are caught in an avalanche
Image: Nicolas Cool / Unsplash

If you are unable to escape the avalanche, take the following steps.

Grab onto something strong

Trees and boulders are unlikely to save you in a large avalanche, but smaller snow flows will help hold on.

try grab hold behind a branch, a strong stone or take cover behind a rock ridge or a large trunk. This will increase your chances of not getting caught in the snow and rolling down the slope.

Stay afloat

When cover cannot be found or there is not enough time, all that is left for an avalanche survivor is to stay as close to its surface as possible so that they do not plunge into the snow very deeply.

commit swimming movements, pushing legs and swinging arms. If you can, “swim” on your back uphill: this way you will find yourself on the surface of the snow.

If you have an avalanche airbag with you, it’s time to pull the handle that activates it.

In the case where “floating” is too difficult, at least try twitch in an upward direction so as not to drown in the snow.

Take a deep breath

Take a deep breath and keep your chest inflated. it will help save room for breathing around the hull if you find yourself deep under an avalanche. Otherwise, the compacted snow will strongly squeeze the lungs.

Raise one hand up

This is of course easier said than done, but to attempt need. Hold one hand above your head as the avalanche comes over you.

Firstly, this way you will help rescuers find you faster. Secondly, if your hand remains free, you will more quickly determine which direction to dig in order to reach the surface faster.

Protect your respiratory system

Most people in avalanches die from suffocation. They literally choke in the snow when it stuffs into their mouths, and sometimes gets right into their lungs.

Protect your mouth and nose: close with a mitten or scarf to keep snow out. And keep your jaws closed so you don’t accidentally bite your tongue.

What to do when the avalanche slows down

What to do if you are caught in an avalanche
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The avalanche does not last long. Usually before stopping the stream can pass the about one and a half kilometers, which will take about a minute. When you feel that the movement is slowing down, do the following.

Create an air pocket for breathing

To avoid suffocation, create room for breathing by clearing the snow in front of your face and chest. In such a pocket of air enough for about half an hour.

Before the avalanche subsides, take a few deep breaths in and out to expand your chest. So you will not allow the snow to bind your body and squeeze your lungs.

If you have an AvaLung device or its analogues, it’s time to activate it and insert the mouthpiece into your mouth.

Don’t panic and don’t scream

Snow drowns out sounds. Therefore, even the most desperate calls for help will not attract teammates or rescuers, but will only waste oxygen.

What to do when the avalanche stops

What to do if you are caught in an avalanche
Image: Marishka Tsiklauri / Unsplash

If the snow flow around you stops moving, you should take more active steps to save yourself.

Determine top and bottom

Most people covered by an avalanche are disoriented and cannot figure out which way to dig. You can unknowingly burrow deeper and waste your oxygen supply.

Instead, digging up an air pocket in front of the face, spit right in front of you. See which direction gravity takes your saliva, and then dig in the opposite direction. It is better to do this several times – for reliability.

If you can’t spit, look in which direction the steam comes out as you exhale. It should go up – there you should dig.

Try to dig out

Start raking the snow in front of your face and chest and over your head and move it under your feet and then trample it down. So you can get out. Save your energy and don’t shout.

Wait for help

If you can’t dig out, don’t waste oxygen on useless movements. Get out on your own succeed those who are covered with no more than 15 centimeters of snow. For those who are deeper, it is better to remain calm and wait for help.

Make sure your avalanche beacon is on and working. Try to bring your hand to the surface to give a signal. If you feel like urinating, do so. It will be, of course, unpleasant, but the smell of urine will help the rescue dogs find you.

call for help

When you hear that they have begun to dig you out, start talk with rescuers. Let them know where you are, what is happening to you, if you have any pain or injury. This will allow them to quickly understand what kind of help you need.

Leave the danger zone

Sometimes there is danger repeated avalanche. If you got out from under the snow on your own and there are no rescuers nearby, examine your body for damage and, if necessary, give yourself first aid.

Then try to get to the nearest settlement as soon as possible. Consult a doctor, and also inform the local administration that an avalanche has occurred and other victims may remain under the snow, who will also need help.