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McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

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edt
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McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby edt » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:19 pm

Weird I know quoting a paper about avalanche risk in a kiteboarding forum. But stick with me. I'm going to quote the article from https://www.summitpost.org/human-factor ... nts/188636 instead of the original 2004 McCammon paper



1. Familiarity
Familiarity with a place or situation allows us to function efficiently, as we do not have to figure out from scratch what to do each time we encounter it. We simply behave as we have always done. Unfortunately, in avalanche terrain the effect of prior experience can lead us to take chances we might not take in unfamiliar territory.

Curiously, familiarity with an area has the strongest effect on highly trained parties. McCammon found that groups with advanced training in terrain with which they were familiar exposed themselves to nearly twice the hazard level of less well-educated groups, and about the same level of hazard as parties with no avalanche training at all.

2. Consistency
Politicians and corporate managers who, having made one bad decision, follow it up with a whole string of bad decisions merely because they don’t want to change their original position provide an endless supply of fodder for the likes of Bill Maher and Scott Adams. But let’s face it, we all do it from time to time. When consistency with previous decisions helps us cut through distractions and stay focused on the task at hand it is a good thing. But when it blinds us to new information that suggests that “staying the course” is a bad idea, it can lead us into trouble. McCammon and others found that there was a significant increase in the level of risk taken by parties who, for one reason or another, were committed to a particular course of action. Groups larger than two, and parties with at least some formal avalanche training seem to be most susceptible.

3. Acceptance
The desire to be noticed and accepted has a powerful influence on human behaviour. There are many possible variations on this theme, including peer group acceptance and gender acceptance. McCammon focused on gender acceptance; specifically, how the presence of women in a group affects the behaviour of men. He found that mixed gender groups exposed themselves to higher risk than all-male groups. The effect does not vary with the number of people in the party. However, groups with only avalanche awareness, but no formal training, exposed themselves to the highest risk.

4. Expert Halo
Following a leader is a very human trait. It helps simplify the task of deciding how to respond to our complex world. But when our follower instinct is triggered by a person due to their personality or perceived level of experience rather than their actual qualifications, it can lead us astray. Indeed, in examining the risks taken by groups with and without a recognized leader, McCammon found that groups without a leader exposed themselves to less risk than those with clear leadership.

5. Social Facilitation
Have you ever felt emboldened by the fact that you were not alone, and that you might have an audience for your exploits? Or conversely, have you ever felt like you didn’t want your relative lack of ability to show when others might be watching? If so, you have experienced what McCammon calls the Social Facilitation trap. He found that groups with at least some formal avalanche training took significantly higher levels of risk when they encountered other parties, whereas those with no training actually exposed themselves to less risk.

6. Scarcity
The human tendency to value a resource more highly when it is perceived to be scarce has had a profound influence on history. Whether it be oil, gold, or that last jacket on the 80% off clearance rack, people will compete for their share before supply runs out. Not a bad strategy when you’re talking about things like food and water. But when McCammon looked at powder hounds headed for an untracked slope, he found that parties who saw another group headed for the same place took significantly higher risks than if the slope had already been skied. Untracked snow is but one form of scarcity that may affect our decisions in the back country. Maybe our time is scarce; if we don’t ski this weekend, we won’t have another chance until next season. Or maybe we want to be the first on a route to avoid being showered by rock or ice knocked down by another party. Whatever the motivation, a strong sense that we must seize the moment or lose a valuable opportunity can be a warning sign that it’s time to take a deep breath and ask if we’d do the same thing if that opportunity was secure.


* * *

I think 6 is my favorite risk factor. When the winds and waves are perfect it's hard to resist launching even when you know it's sketch.
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Matteo V (Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:19 pm)
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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby cwood » Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm

brilliant parallels!

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby Matteo V » Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:15 pm

cwood wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm
brilliant parallels!
How so?

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby Matteo V » Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:19 pm

edt wrote:
Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:19 pm
Weird I know quoting a paper about avalanche risk in a kiteboarding forum.
We are getting a big dump here over the next few days. That's going to boost the Avalanche risk in the area, and maybe even cut off our roads to the spot. And many of us that kiteboard also snowkite. So thanks for this.

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby cwood » Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:29 pm

Matteo V wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:15 pm
cwood wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm
brilliant parallels!
How so?
In northern climates we often really push the limits of safety (weather, launches, water conditions, temperatures) to get days in. We love to boost high and we often push into conditions that have big potential but also big potential for poop to happen. We often make decisions to launch into situations that are not worth it when looked through the lens of risk potential. In the past week alone we have had expert riders in a truly life threatening situation because of most all of these points, equipment destroyed and very real potential that life could have been lost. Smart, very competent people getting sucked in by these dynamics. It's not smart, not fair to those that love you nor those that are then on the hook to help you.

The conversation that followed was about how many critical rules were broken in the name of getting a session. ALL of these points above I connect to very much.....they are all in play.

In windy southerly locations with many riding days to be had, with long sand beaches etc many of these factors are perhaps diminished. I shared that list with my crew as a great reminder.
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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby ToeKnee » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:12 am

I am not convinced current avy training is on the right track. About 1 year ago 5 participants in an avy course in southern Colorado were caught / buried during the course, unfortunately one died. As a former ski patrolman, ski guide, forecaster and avalanche mitigation specialist, my take away advice to avoid being caught - stay off the steeps. Slopes under 25 degrees don't slide, winter backcountry travellers should have a clinometer. Get a smart phone clinometer app.

I appreciate this topic was brought up to emphasize risk management generally, hope you don't mind me driving this one specific point on snow avalanches.
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nixmatters (Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:38 pm)
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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby edt » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:53 am

ToeKnee wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:12 am
I am not convinced current avy training is on the right track. About 1 year ago 5 participants in an avy course in southern Colorado were caught / buried during the course, unfortunately one died. As a former ski patrolman, ski guide, forecaster and avalanche mitigation specialist, my take away advice to avoid being caught - stay off the steeps. Slopes under 25 degrees don't slide, winter backcountry travellers should have a clinometer. Get a smart phone clinometer app.

I appreciate this topic was brought up to emphasize risk management generally, hope you don't mind me driving this one specific point on snow avalanches.
I've heard that point before. Definitely weird how avy training can be a risk itself

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby pj sofine » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:55 am

This info could have saved me from my 1st 2 marriages. :o

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby ToeKnee » Sun Jan 12, 2020 3:06 am

....and regarding slope angles, there is a great online resource : www.Hillmap.com , click the 'overlay' button and choose the 'CalTopo slope angle' overlay to preview safe travel routes before your trip.

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Re: McCammon's 6 risk factors for avalanche risk

Postby Seawolf » Sun Jan 12, 2020 3:10 pm

Good advice!
I think the list could be even longer...

7. Kodak courage or todays counterpart Gopro courage.
"Got to get those likes for instagram"
8. The Investment paradox.
Travel to the other side of the world to ski world class conditions, spent to much money and effort on climbing this mountain.
Not holding back even though the avalanche warnings is high!


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