The Basic Essentials of Avalanche Safety

I picked up The Basic Essentials of Avalanche Safety by Buck Tilton for one dollar several years ago at the Canadian National Exhibition. From its original price of $7.99 it was reduced to $5.00 then finally to $1.00 as seen by the flurry of stickers on the front cover. For one dollar it would probably be an interesting read and also teach me something. In its 65 pages, Tilton covered the different kinds of avalanches; types of snow one might encounter; terrains and landscape; weather conditions; choosing a safe route when hiking or mountain climbing; and rescuing and caring for avalanche victims. Plenty of diagrams accompanied the text, which I found valuable when reading about snow levels and paths avalanches take. I found the handwritten block text used to label the diagrams at times difficult to read.

Tilton wrote with authority as he is a certified avalanche hazard evaluator and a member of the Pitkin (Colorado) Rescue Squad. His rescue chapter offered advice not only for finding those buried under the snow but also survival skills for those who find themselves trapped in an avalanche. He was direct in his evaluations, based on experience:

“A victim buried under six feet of snow is statistically dead. They simply can’t be gotten out in time.”

The beginning of the book talked about the world’s most devastating avalanches (up to 1992, the year of publication). The North Huascarán avalanche in Peru killed over twenty thousand people in 1970. That’s definitely a subject I’d like to learn more about.

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