How do you manage risk?
Risk = Consequence x Exposure x Vulnerability
The consequences of being caught on this slope avalanching or from falling would be catastrophic: Survivability somewhere around nil. This slope had recently slid on an early season layer with no new snow since the slide. Thus avalanche hazard eliminated. The bed-surface of the slide was hard and supportable that made for good crampon climbing. We limited the risk of a fall with good timing. We climbed the route as the day warmed and got off it before it got too hot. Stable crampon purchase while maintaining its supportability.
Exposure: We had to climb the route and expose ourselves to the crossing to get to our intended decent. We limited exposure to avalanches by climbing after an avalanche occurred. We limited the consequences of a sliding fall by climbing in the early morning hours during slow warm up. Additionally, we moved fast as to limit the time in the terrain.
Vulnerability: You are a small human in an enormous natural world terrain feature…here are the decisions we made to limit our vulnerability.
  • While we wore helmets for rockfall, they only protect from small fragments. It was best to be on the slope with cool temps before anything could melt out and release.
  • The previous avalanche eliminated our possibility of getting slid. If we got there and it hadn’t slid that would have made it a non-starter.
  • Early start. With a long approach to the climb a 2am start time gave us an appropriate margin.
  • Right group for the route. Having worked together previously we had familiarity with each other’s protocols. Better communications made us less vulnerable to the hazards of one another.
  • Right Route: We had been researching the route for years. Our skills were primed for the objective.
  • Right Group: As a group of 3 we had better emergency response capabilities. All had high fitness levels. We were all motivated to do the route in good conditions. Patience followed by high commitment. Did I mention the patience??
  • Right Day: We had been watching conditions and skiing and climbing similar aspects.
So how do you manage risk? Or do you just take them?
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