Today Lillian Alice Sætre and I set out on a ski trip to the mountain Fingeren (the finger) which has an altitude of 1180 meters, and can be seen right above my ski pole in the image above. The path to this iconic mountain takes you past the mountain Noklane, which is prone to avalanches.
Before deciding on this mountain we checked the avalanche forecasts, which showed level 2 (moderate), we checked the reviews on Facebook by those who did this ascent yesterday, and none of the reviews we read mentioned anything that would indicate immediate danger of avalanches, such as loud sounds coming from the snow (whumpfing) or cracks shooting across the slope, and no cracks were visible on the pictures posted. We also checked the weather forecast, of course. We deemed it safe, although the area had received about 10 cm of snow, and the temperature had risen slightly.
From the parking we saw several groups of skiers heading up towards the mountain Noklane, and we started heading up the mountain side. When we approached Noklane we saw groups of people standing in rows, and we immediately assumed they were participants in an avalanche security course. Then a girl came heading down the mountain carrying one ski, and she told us that she and three others had been caught in an avalanche coming from the big gully in Noklane. Fortunately she had lost only a ski, and the three others were safe too. Two other avalanches had occurred spontaneously a bit further up towards Fingeren, so she advised us to turn around, and of course we took her advice.
A safe ski trip halfway to a summit is still an adventure, and is infinitely better than risking an unsafe passage through avalanche prone terrain. The mountain does look beautiful from a distance, though, so we’ll be back as soon as the snow is stable.
There are always lessons to be learned from near accidents, and going over today’s trip, I think the lesson to be learned was that the temperature rose more than expected today, and that we – and the 20 others on that mountain today underestimated the effect of that temperature rise. The main lesson to be learned, however, is that I need to learn a lot more about avalanches, and that the week end course I just completed is just a mere introduction. I have started studying the comprehensive course provided by Avalanche Canada, (http://old.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/contributing-factors) as well as studying Norwegian web pages and articles.