Avalanche is rare in Finland, but possible. It is possible to increase snow safety by learning skills before going off-piste.
Half hours. That much Matti Honkanen calculated to survive. He lay under the snow and could not move.
The avalanche had just buried Honkanen in Pyhätunturi’s Kuorinkikuru, and he couldn’t do anything himself. It didn’t help but wait to find him.
Honkanen had known what he was about to do as he headed outside the slopes. Honkanen was on the move with his four friends and the men intended to shoot Finland’s first free-down video in the hinterland of Pyhätunturi. Even though it is already 30 years since the events, Honkanen still remembers the details vividly.
The sun was shining and shining, but in the previous days the snow had blown in properly, Matti Honkanen, Pyhäntunturi’s shift manager, now recalls. It had been snowing the day before, on a windy day, and it had snowed in various places. After a windy snowy day, the weather was clear and the frost was a few degrees.
Four days were set aside for filming. On the second day of the calculation, the counters and the filming team were in Kuorikuru. Honkanen lived in the locality and knew the places well. They had been hiking in the area with friends who had been with them all their lives and knew how snow could accumulate on the wall of the gorge.
“The gorge is in the shape of a semicircle and the snow had cobbled up the top of the cliff. We knew the platform was heather, which could cause the snow to crack easily and roll down to the bottom. It’s a great wall that we knew was dangerous. ”
“There is a man behind the danger.”
Enthusiasm young men were absent. They had been planning the filming for a long time and wanted to make the best possible landing video, Honkanen recalls.
“I was 25 years old. We had a huge amount of testosterone, we trusted our skills and there was group pressure. There was not enough sense involved yet. ”
It is the human influence, one’s own decisions and choices that often lead to a dangerous situation, Honkanen knows. He has fallen all his life and has seen many other many hazards and avalanches since that avalanche. Decades of downhill experience have brought with it an insight into how snow behaves in different conditions, terrains and situations.
Almost always an avalanche is caused in one way or another by human influence.
“Behind the danger is the person who has made some kind of decision that has led to the situation.”
As a young calculator, Honkanen assesses the situation differently than he does today – will dictates more sense.
“We had decided to count just that particular day, and that was our time window.”
Two the graph had settled on the opposite wall to photograph as the counters planned the descent. The more skiers would lower the wall at a time, the greater the risk of landslides. So not everyone should count at once, even if it is the most spectacular option.
“In the end, we decided to count two at a time. Another lottery hit me. ”
Honkanen was the first to fall. When the descent was a few tens of meters behind, Honkanen felt unreal: the platform was moving down. There was a warning cry from above: “The avalanche was triggered!”
A friend fell behind Honkanen and was able to turn his tongue to safety. Honkanen tried to run down the avalanche, but the walls of the gorge blocked access to safety.
Snow caught Honkanen’s skis. At first, the snow remained a uniform slab, but soon it disintegrated and became loose. At the same time, the snow sucked the man with him. The skis pulled down from Honka and he tried to get rid of them to no avail.
“At the same time, I tried to do swimming to stay afloat.”
“I knew I would have about half an hour under the snow.”
Honkasen according to everything it happened in a few seconds. Then the snow mass stopped, the pounding stopped and it became completely quiet. Honkanen lay still in the snow, trying to understand what had happened.
“The mouth was full of snow, and for the first few seconds I thought there was going to be a departure. The spirit did not pass. ”
Honkanen tried to calm himself. He melted the snow in his mouth and spoke to himself reassuringly.
“I knew that panic consumes more oxygen. Then you may also vomit and choke on your own broths. ”
The snow could not move at all. Fortunately, the snow was light powder snow and did not weigh as much as, for example, the wetter snow.
“I was like plaster. The mechanism of snow is like this: when it moves, it is elastic, but then it cementes into hard rock. I got my fingers and toes slightly moved inside the boots. ”
Honkanen began to drain his saliva to see in which direction it was going to drain. Saliva flowed down and Honkanen realized he was upright. It improved the chances of survival a bit.
“I knew I would have about half an hour under the snow. After that, carbon dioxide will start to do its job. ”
It only helped to lie still and think nice thoughts, Honkanen recalls.
Lumen on the surface, other skiers, a director and cameramen immediately set out to search Honka. Other skiers had seen where Honkanen had roughly appeared on the surface of the snow. The cameramen checked the tape.
Probes were made from the rods to help the group search for Honka under the snow.
Digging in the snow is a heavy chore and the minutes pass quickly. It is worth directing your energy to find just the right place.
Until 30 years ago, avalanche rescue equipment was considerably poorer than it is today. The group did not have avalanche backpacks or beepers, which are now an integral part of freestyle equipment.
About ten minutes later, Honkanen felt the rod press lightly on his chest under the snow. He had been found. There was about 1.5 feet of snow on top and the group had one shovel with them.
With it and by hand, the men began digging up Honka.
“Moving the snow is a tough job. Some kicked the snow with their monos and I got the mono in my head. It was the biggest injury I ever had. ”
When friends got Honkanen’s head dug up, he began to comfort his friends.
“Throughout the excavation contract, I repeated, ‘Hey guys, no worries.’ The video shows how my mouth goes all the time and I smile broadly with my lips blue. No one else smiled. ”
Honkanen’s legs were about three meters deep, so it took a moment to dig. It is estimated that another three meters of snow remained under him.
“It was a small thing that the skis didn’t pull me even deeper. If I had been under the whole pile, I wouldn’t have found it until spring. ”
In Finland avalanches that rarely claim lives occur. The risk still exists.
A large part of the incidents of Finnish skiers occur abroad. According to Finnish avalanche training On average, one Finn dies in an avalanche abroad each year. If left under the snow, the chances of survival are greatly reduced after 15 minutes.
“There is no safe snow, but the risks can be reduced by knowing what you are doing,” Snow Safety Trainer and Avalanche Specialist Jarkko-Juhani Henttonen says.
A more likely danger than landslides lies in other landing accidents: sprains, collisions, and fractures. If you dispose of your landing gear or injure yourself outside the slope, the cold can quickly cause an awkward situation.
“In Finland, there is often talk of dozens of degrees of frost and the latter. If something happens, it can take hours to get outside help and not always get outside help. That’s when it’s important to stay warm and know how to act in nature, ”the avalanche technician Ville Väkeväinen says.
The strong remind that people may have to travel long distances on their own.
The most important thing is to know what you are doing. Safety can also be increased by hiring a local guide who has knowledge of the area. Even then, you also have to know where you are going and assess the risks yourself.
Lumen Honkanen’s skis and poles were also found in the middle. After calming down for a moment, he took them with him, climbed back up, and lowered the fallen wall down again.
“It wasn’t the coolest fall, but I didn’t want to give the fear power, but keep counting right away.”
The gang decided not to spoil the incident to anyone. Honkanen did not even tell his then-spouse about the incident.
“It wasn’t until two weeks later that I told you it was going to be bad.”
“The avalanche doesn’t have to be big when the power of the snow takes over.”
Honkanen has continued to count after what happened, and counting has always been a way of life for him. Since then, however, he has realized that it is not worth getting involved in everything.
“I’ve learned to turn back from the route if even one of the crew says it’s not good to continue. The avalanche doesn’t have to be big when the power of the snow takes over. The man is then quite small. ”
Risks always exist, but they can be reduced by taking into account the prevailing circumstances.
“Free landing cannot be done according to one’s own time windows or desires, but one must become familiar with local conditions and think in peace. Nature has to be taken into account, you are just visiting there. ”
Sport is a magazine focused on exercise and well-being, edited by Helsingin Sanomat. The story has appeared in issue 2/22 of Sport magazine.
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