Identifying avalanche hazards in the mountains of the arctic will be a challenging process. Temperature variations, snowfall, wind speed and direction all affect the stability and strength of the snowpack. Critical to staying safe will be good decision making – being aware of the dangers, heeding the warnings and recognising the indications that the mountains provide.
The stats show that 90% of avalanche victims triggered the avalanche in which they were caught, themselves! We’ll all be carrying avalanche safety equipment (transceiver, probe and shovel) and will all be well drilled with efficient transceiver searching, effective probing and strategic shovelling.
Loose snow avalanches, slab avalanches, powder snow avalanches and wet snow avalanches are all potential dangers to us in the Stauning Alps region. The most common causes are snowstorms, human activity – vibrations and movements, different layers of snow and steep slopes.
Together with the Danish mapping agency, Satmap Systems Ltd and our own expertise we’ve collated satellite imagery, gpx files, digital elevation models to arm ourselves with as much data and knowledge as possible to plan a safe expedition. Satmap have kindly offered to loan us some of their GPS units loaded with all this information!
Factors we’ve taken into account include slope aspect, altitude and slope angles and our avalanche maps will look like the image below. The different colours show the different slope angles and the black lines are an estimate of avalanche runout zones. Clever stuff! This is massively helpful for us in locating safe base camps, identifying safe routes and areas to avoid.
Additionally, the summer/winter satellite imaginary will inform us what’s below the snow and there are also tools for sun-hours and shadow areas – useful for route planning and so we don’t end up camping in the shade!
We could even include polar bear locations, but they haven’t tagged any near where we’re going!