Mar 31, 2016
Daniel Kornhall's is an introduction to snow avalanche physiology and the realities of mountain rescue.
Dying in an avalanche is an extremely rare cause of death but for us who live in mountain regions and who enjoy winter mountain sports it is a thing that needs to be dealt with. The overall mortality in avalanche incidents is roughly 20% but this increases to 50% in the buried victims, which is why my talk, and most avalanche medicine, focuses on the buried victims. Asphyxia causes the vast majority of deaths, accounting for roughly 80% with trauma in second place at 20%. Hypothermia as the primary cause of death in avalanche victims is extremely uncommon. Asphyxiation causes a dramatic plunge in survival from 80% down to 30% within the first half our of avalanche burial. This is why timely location and extrication of the victim is of vital importance.
Kornhall explains why organised rescue service rarely, if ever, manage to get to the victim within this critical asphyxia phase. Survival rather depends on immediate bystander or companion rescue. Extrication times can be reduced by being properly equipped with avalanche transceivers, quality snow shovels and avalanche probes.
Kornhall briefly discusses the avalanche airbag, a fairly recent innovation that may reduce the likelihood of being buried if you get avalanched. In the last part of my talk i describe modern extrication techniques and how implementing these into rescue training dramatically improves extrication times.