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Anton also recommended The Avalanche Handbook by David McClung and Peter Schaerer. Its been the avalanche text for people who want to both travel and return from snowy backcountry for the last 30 years.
So naturally I was pretty wowed when a bald, nebbishy looking guy stood up and started speaking on the application of fractal geometry in guiding. Fractal geometry? Fractal geometry had barely been "discovered" in 1970 when Dave McClung wrote his book and here he was, in the flesh, reminding us all that Euclid, for all his insight, had only scratched the surface.
And Peter Schaerer, looking every bit like everyones wizened grandfather, was sitting in the front row nodding his head in agreement!
Im pretty sure there were maybe only a dozen people in the room who had ever heard of fractal geometry and Im equally sure there were only three who understood the math Dave was scratching out on the overhead projector.
One of those three was, well, indescribable is probably the best description. If Tim Burton, the film director, were to decide to remake Heidi , he might cast this guy as Grandpa. His face was ringed by wild, grey hair. It was hard to know for sure where his head hair left off and his beard hair began. The whole wreath stood out perpendicularly from his head as though he were his own static electricity generator.
Speaking mainly in Swiss German with occasional forays into English, Werner Munter would have been fascinating had he been presenting a wine list. What he was presenting though was his 3x3 Reduction Method for determining slope stability and making Go-No Go decisions. His method is de rigueur in the European alpine community but has met with considerable resistance in North America, where hes better known in the climbing community for his Munter hitch belay method.
The parade went on all week. Manuel Genswein, who probably knows more about using avalanche transceivers than anyone in the world, attended from Switzerland to instruct in efficient search techniques for multiple burials. To drive his points home, he conducted timed field tests with five buried, remote-controlled "victims" arrayed across a field 50x50 metres. Humbling.
Bruce Jamieson explained part of what was going on to me. "Avalanches are very complex phenomena. Were a long way from understanding them. Were making small steps towards improving the prediction of avalanches but they are still a poorly understood phenomena because of things like spatial variability. Being here, presenting to a group of people who live the phenomenon every day, strengthens our research because theyre quick to question the application of what were doing and through this exchange of ideas, were able to essentially field test what were doing in the lab.
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