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Avalanche Safety

One of the most dangerous elements of winter travel is the risk of encountering an avalanche, but with sensible travel choices one can minimize exposure to risk. Travellers should educate themselves about particularly dangerous areas as well as learning how to recognize signs of avalanche risk. Generally speaking, when snow accumulates in a steep area there is a risk of avalanche, but the danger is highest in areas with a 30-50 degree incline.

Signs of potential avalanche danger

  • A recent avalanche is the clearest example of imminent avalanche threat
  • Intense and prolonged winds highten avalanche risk
  • Snow poorly connected to the substrate (can be recognized through hollow sound/cracks/whumpfs)
  • Rapid temperature increases above the freezing point
  • Recent rainfall
  • Rolling snowballs

When travelling in the mountains, valleys are the most dangerous areas for avalanche risk. If you are traveling through a hazardous area, take extreme care and determine a safe place to stop then have each person go over the hazardous area one by one.

If a traveler becomes injured or trapped in the snow flow it is imperative that fellow travelers act quickly and efficiently to rescue the trapped individual

  • Estimate further avalanche risk and assess whether you need to move injured individuals or vacate the area
  • Begin searching immediately for anyone that is trapped under the snow, start by marking where they were last seen, where they landed in the flood, and where any of their possessions landed
  • The most likely places to search for avalanche victims are where the snow flow has collected, in the turns of the flow, and by large rocks or barriers
  • Call emergency services immediately to let them know of the situation

Do not travel on or near snow covered mountainous areas without checking conditions and alerts first. The following 3 pieces of gear are considered ESSENTIAL for winter hiking in Iceland

  • Avalanche Transceiver
  • Snow Shovel
  • Avalanche Probe

Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue Skógarhlíð 14, 105 Rvk. Iceland safetravel@safetravel.is +354 570-5929 Disclaimer