I'm digging a snow pit to look at snow layers, instructor Dave Beck is taking notes. It will tell you everything you need to know, if you care to look. Dave Beck Avalanche Workshop, Meiss Meadows, Feb 1988 ©2013 larry gassan
In Feb '89 I took an avalanche-workshop/training class with Dave Beck, up at Meiss Meadows south of Tahoe near Luther Pass, somewhere around 8,000'. We spent 3 days digging snow pits, snow analysis, XC skiing, etc. Looking at snow structure in a variety of scenarios. There's a world of wonder there.
I also found out what its like to have an avalanche dog look for you. We went out in front of the cabin, six feet of snow. I dug a 4' hole. Volunteers? Me. I jumped in, wild-splayed, miming a probable avalanche-induced off-balance throw.
The class backfilled the hole, and tromped out the fill and surrounding area. We waited 20min. I was covered, and it was dim. I realized my irises were flaring because it got light/dark/light dark. Everything was dim.
Guinness, looking to dig somebody out of a snow-problem. Dave Beck Avalanche Workshop, Meiss Meadows, Feb 1988. ©2013 larry gassan
Then Dave let Guinness, his search German Shepherd loose out of the cabin. I could hear her bark, get closer, circle, range out, get close, then she was bugging. Her loud-ass barking was muffled through the snow, which had set up like concrete. Ice-cold, death-chill concrete.They dug me out, after probing with wands. Luckily they didn't poke my eye out. When they hauled me out, I was frozen. Even back in the cabin, with a roaring cast-iron stove, I was bone-chilled. In retrospect, I should've been vigorously towelled off to restore circulation as well. I was fully dressed, in wool trousers, sox, poly-pro top, hat, gloves.
Last day we were there, there was a S&R for a day-skiier who took off from his group at lunch, "to get a workout in". He got lost. They found him the next day, alive. The S&R snowmobile swung by the cabin, the lost duck was wobbly on the back. The S&R guy jerked his thumb at the Lost Boy, "We found him". Nothing more. Weary contempt. And he took off.