Skier survives major avalanche in Austria using his AvaLung
Earlier this year we received another email from an avalanche victim who relied upon his AvaLung to survive the accident. An experienced backcountry skier and ski instructor, Paul Simpson was buried in a major avalanche in Austria and his email below is another haunting reminder of the dangers ever-present in the backcountry and the importance of everyone you are skiing with having the proper training and equipment—especially, as Paul and other avalanche survivors attest to, an AvaLung.
From: Paul Simpson
Sent: Samstag, 29. Januar 2011 14:21
Subject: Avalanche on Kitzsteinhorn, Kaprun, Austria.... 2 ski
Instructors buried alive.
Yesterday I was unlucky to be involved in a huge avalanche as reported in the press and television in Austria.
My friend and I were 2 from the 5 Ski Instructors making our way to the top of a ridge were we planned to do the long off-piste route down to the village of Niedernsill. We were taking the last traverse very cautiously and decided to go one at a time due to the risk of avalanche and although we took every precaution possible (except remaining at home) an avalanche which was extremely big took myself and my friend on a unforgettable ride losing 200 metres altitude and traveling over 300 meters in a matter of seconds.
Although we were both equipped with Probes, Shovels and Transceivers only I was wearing the AvaLung rucksack. As the slide started I automatically placed the tube in my mouth and due to the size of the slide I decided that I was unable to ski to the side and tried to go directly down the slope over a cliff face. On landing the slope was moving all around me and I was smashed against rocks on the way down as I tried with all my energy to swim to the surface. Although this action certainly assisted in me not ending up too deep under the snow I was for most of the slide buried and when it came to a stop only my hand was sticking out of the snow.
I had focused the whole way down the slide on biting hard on the tube from my AvaLung and it was still firmly in my mouth when I was buried in this icy tomb. I could not move a millimetre with the exception of my hand. Amazingly the AvaLung allowed me to breath almost as normal and I was strangely calm and began to try to use my free hand to wave and to clear some snow away from my helmet which was only about 15 - 20cm under the snow.
Within 5 minutes one of the other group had found me with the Pieps and the fact that my glove was showing. He dug me out still conscious and breathing normally. I was of course very bruised but surprised nothing was broken.
My friend unfortunately was not equipped with AvaLung and his story was not so good. He too had found himself sliding down under the weight of the snow and was also buried but only his ski shoe was showing. He lost consciousness within 2 minutes and when he was dug out he was blue from the lack of oxygen. As soon as I was clear I immediately joined my friends to help and gave my friend mouth to mouth, which made an instant change to his colour. Within minutes he was talking, all be it gibberish but thankfully with the exception of a badly damaged knee he should be fine. He spent less than 8 minutes under the snow and can only recall the first 1 or 2 minutes and then nothing until he was out of the snow. We believe
that the next minute or two would have been fatal.
As for me I am not going to say that AvaLung saved my life. What I do know is that both I and my friend were buried at the same time... I was conscious and dare I say comfortable and when rescued was able to assist in the rescue of my friend. My friend on the other hand quickly lost consciousness, had mouth to mouth to bring him around, was helicoptered to Hospital and I think its fair to say with the an AvaLung things would not have been so bad for him.
So, the AvaLung saved my life? You decide. I wont be seen without it!